There is a rapture on the lonely shore;
There is society, where none intrudes.
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more...

-Lord Byron

Definition of Walkabout :

a short period of wandering as an occasional interruption of regular work
Showing posts with label Central America. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Central America. Show all posts

23 June 2017

Chapultepec Park

I'd been in Mexico City about one hour, readying myself to start exploring this new destination. I like to start out slowly so that I can familiarize myself with the lay of the streets and my new surroundings.

Chapultepec park is across the street from my hotel, and seems to be the perfect place to get acclimated.
Being one of the largest parks in the western hemisphere, I have no goal of trying to see it all, I only want to get familiar with the people and culture of Mexico City. Cobblestone paths take me past statues of heroes and great political figures that helped shaped Mexico's history and future.
The park has Aztec history, castles, monuments and museums, merry-go rounds and giant fallen trees to climb upon. Beautiful flower gardens and lakes for couples to take a ride on in a boat.

Families are enjoying the day everywhere you look.
It is the perfect place to start exploring a new city.

21 June 2017

Horseback riding & secret Costa Rican waterfalls

I wake up to the smell of falling rain. It's my first full day up in the mountains of Guanacaste province in Costa Rica. I'm hoping to go horseback riding as well as get in some hiking, yet the weather is not looking like its going to cooperate.

A small truck appears out of the rain and the driver asks me if I'm ready. If they are willing to venture out in this weather, so am I....

As we get to the stables, the wind picks up and the rain is coming at us in sideways fashion. It's not cold though, and the fast moving storm clouds create an unreal atmosphere. I climb up on my trusty steed, and ready myself to get muddy.
The green hills around us spark the imagination of jungle creatures. We climb the rolling hills until we eventually summit. My fellow riders leave me at this point to do some ziplining but our guide and myself carry on.

We are going to find secret waterfalls.
Families of monkeys follow us from high up in the trees above. The rain has turned the trail into a slick waterslide, and I brace myself as our horses slip and slide down the trail. Eventually we tie the horses up to a hitching post and continue on foot.

A butterfly with the most stunning azure blue color on its wings follows me along the trail, eventually resting on my pant leg.

My guide tells me this is a good luck sign.
We come to two different waterfalls, both amazing in their own right. The best part is that it is only the two of us here. The quiet jungle sounds and falling water are the perfect morning symphony for my ears.
Our morning ends just as the rain starts to let up. We make our way back to the top of the mountain, and rest for a spell before our next adventure begins.

12 June 2017

The Boriquen

In the early morning I look down the empty road that leads to the Guanacasta beach in Costa Rica with a smile. It's been a lovely few days here, but the time has come to head up into the jungle and the Boriquen Mountain Resort.
I grab some Tecate's from the local market, then load into my van transportation for the one hour drive. The driver speak little English, so my morning is enjoyed in silence as we make our way up the winding roads.

I arrive at the resort before 9am, and find my room won't be ready until early afternoon. No worries though, as it gives me plenty of time to explore my new surroundings for the next few days. I start by climbing the steep road to the top of the resort. The lush jungle is alive with the sounds of the creatures within.
I spot a tropical bird high up in the trees, perhaps a parrot but I'm not really sure. Soon thereafter the monkeys start to show themselves. I stay for a bit, watching the puffy clouds roll across the lush landscape, then head back down.
I find a trail below the restaurant down by the pools and spa. A crystal clear river runs against the trail, the babbling of water flowing over rocks is the only sound. I find a butterfly following me, hitching a ride on my shorts.

It's a good luck sign.

I come to an ancient petroglyph marking high up on a stone, then a little further I find a natural hot spring with steam rising and filling the jungle with it's breath.

I make my way back to the lobby area to find my room is ready. It's more of a cottage than a room, set up on the hillside.

A deck with a hammock calls my name....
in the Garden of Eden known as Boriquen.

28 May 2017

The Ritual of the Voladores

As I'm walking around the Chapultepec Park in Mexico City, I look up to see the most bizarre sight....men hanging upside down spinning around a pole while a flute is being played.

I see this again and again throughout my travels in Mexico, and finally learn that this is an ancient tradition of the Totanac people.
A long time ago, there was a severe drought in the region. The elders decided that a ceremony should be performed to ask the Gods to return the rain and bring fertility to the soil.

From this ceremony of old comes the practice that is continued today, as the people are thankful to the God Xipe Totec, God of agriculture and fertility, for the rain and land that he has continued to provide for the people that reside and flourish here.

11 April 2017

Guanacaste

Costa Rica would be the first country I would attempt to enter after being denied entry in Montreal. That bitter feeling combined with high anxiety levels were on full display as I approached passport control.

Nothing felt as sweet as hearing the click of the stamp coming down, and the big smile on the officer's face as he stated "Welcome to Costa, pura vida!".
It's dark, almost midnight, as my taxicab drives through the countryside to my hotel in Guanacaste. I've no idea what type of area I'll be in until morning. I check into the unassuming hotel and fall asleep quickly, dreaming of what will come in the morning.

I arise to the salty ocean smell, yet I can't see the water. At breakfast, I ask a young man which way to the beach. He smiles warmly and points down the road.

I start walking. I'm not in a hotel zone with throngs of tourists, nor a busy beachside city. It's a laid back and quiet little town with hostels and hotels hidden in the lush jungle, a store here and many a local's home there.

I come to the beach.
There are no annoying people bombarding you to buy wares or hook you up with things you don't want to do. Everyone is just enjoying themselves. I wander around from sunrise to sunset, sleep in the sand, find a shack to eat ceviche when hungry, a bar to quench my thirst.
Guanacaste province is the perfect starting place in Costa Rica. Let the sailboats gently rock in the morning sun as one falls in love with this country.
******

13 November 2015

Cancun

I was told that the place I was staying at in Cancun's hotel zone had the best beach in the area. I would walk in the wet sand most evenings and just take in the surroundings.

Couples holding hands, children laughing, millionaires making out with big breasted women in the shallows of giant yachts.
The water was always smooth, never a rough surf. I wade in the clear blue ocean, letting the salty wonder lap over my sun kissed skin.

I head to the bar when thirsty or hungry, and then slowly make my way back to the beach chair.
Best beach in the area? Who knows, but one thing is for certain...
the beach was better than being trapped in a kitchen doing dishes.

10 November 2015

Climbing Coba

A clearing ahead gave one it's first glimpse of the Nohoch Mul Pyramid rising high above the Yucatan Peninsula. One hundred and thirty steps to the summit. I stand at the base and look up in awe.
The stones are as slick as black ice, my foot barely fits on the narrow step. I understand why the rope was put into place and grab it tightly with one hand.

The final step brings me to an unparalleled view of the area. I let the sweat drip off my brow as I sit and cool down atop this sacred place.
After a spell, I look down and try to calculate the best route to take back to the ground. Others are sliding down on their backsides, or crawling in reverse on hands and knees.

Inadvertently worshiping the Mayan Gods of old as they descend. Bow down new humans.
I reach for the sky one last time, then slowly make my way down from the mighty pyramid.



17 October 2015

biking around the ruins of Coba

The large and peaceful grounds of the ancient city of Coba awaits me. It is here that I am searching for a large pyramid that I can climb to it's peak and feel the Mayan spirit of old.

To do this, I decide to rent a bike and ride along the flat Yucatan roads among the symphony of the jungle.
It was quite the experience to quietly come to a clearing in the jungle and find the remains of a city that once held up to 100,000 people.
As I was riding around though, I started to notice that I was the only one at these sites. I found this strange, and started to wonder where the mighty pyramid was...
Tracking back, I find a fork in the road that I missed seeing initially. Sweaty but excited, I head down this new path. People and bicycles start to appear and the road becomes more populous.
Luck strikes me again, as I saw the sites of the mighty Coba first, but unknowingly saved the best for last.....

but that will be a story for another time.


19 September 2015

Cenote Ik Kil

The Cenote Ik Kil was as different from the Cenote Maya as New York is from Los Angeles. You can't even compare the two, and I recommend going to both places if you can.
Ik Kil is much larger and more designed for tourists due to being so close Chichen Ixta. Since I was going to swim in the cenote, I first went to the lady to get a locker for my stuff, and securely fastened my locker room key around my neck.

I showered, as we want to try and keep as many chemicals from lotions, deodorant etc, out of the pristine waters. It was then time to get wet.
The water was cold as I entered, but the spectacular scenery abates the chill quickly. I decide to first swim to the other side where waterfalls cascade lightly down on to those that venture to this side of the cenote.
The water is so clear it takes my breath away. As I submerge, schools of tiny black catfish are teeming below the surface.

I decide to step up the adventure to the next level, eyeing the jumping platforms of various heights built into the right side of the cenote.

I choose the middle platform first. A deep breath, a little prayer, and then....
the thrill was amazing!

I turn into a child after their first bite of candy....more, more, more!

I go to the highest platform, and jump in time and time again. 5 times, 10 times, perhaps 20 jumps in total, I lost count.
The bubbles free the poisons in my life, re-oxygenating my spirit. I am cleansed anew in this sacred and special place.
The only downside? My locker key wasn't as secure around my neck as I thought, due to my repeated jumping.

The lady wasn't too happy that I lost it in the cenote, and charged me twenty dollars.

Lesson learned.


04 June 2015

Rappelling into the Cenote Maya

"Have you rappelled before?"

"Once, but not a free fall rappel..."

"You'll be fine amigo. Keep one hand down by your cuco (butt) and keep the other one free, up in the air, waving and giving the thumbs up. Ok?"

Just like that, the instructions were given in friendly Mexican fashion, and I was teetering on the edge of the mighty Cenote Maya. Excited, a little frightened, but with my adrenaline taking control of my body, I started my descent....

Quickly the scenery changes and I try to slow myself down to try and take in the majesty of the cenote, but it is all too much to comprehend. Before I know it,  my feet are getting wet....
I get the harness unbuckled and swim towards the platform built in the middle of the cenote. The water is cool at first, but my body quickly adjusts and I focus on how clear and clean my environment truly is.

The Mayan people have built a small zip line, jumping platforms of various heights, and a rope under the water that extends to the far end of the cenote so that one can traipse across if you choose.

I go for the highest platform, summon courage, and run off into the darkness.

It's such a rush I do it again and again, loving the splash and rising to the surface amidst the surging bubbles and clear water. I walk the underwater rope and find small black catfish everywhere. I swim backstroke most of the time so that I can soak in the view.
For my first day in Cancun, it was incredible, to say the least.

15 February 2014

the lesser known ruins of the Mayan

The rain poured in torrential buckets during Belize's "dry season". Another reminder that Mother Nature has a mind of her own, regardless of a traveler's plans. If one is mindful of this fact, and can bend and sway with the changes, unexpected adventures lay in wait.

The rivers swelled and flooded all roads leading to the more infamous Mayan ruins I initially wanted to see. Day after day everyone was hopeful the waters would recede, but on my last full day in country, the realization hit that this wasn't going to happen.

So I ended up going to Lubaantun and Nim Li Punit.
Lubaantun is in the lush jungle, just beyond the beautiful little village of Toledo. When first discovered, the archaeologist's used dynamite to unearth the ruins, sadly blowing up each structure in the process.

A crystal skull ( just like in the Indiana Jones movie) was found and stolen by Americans back in the 1940's. The Belize government is working with the US to try and retrieve this part of their cultural heritage, but without much success. They believe it is sitting in someone's home in Indiana.
Among the ruins we find natural abundance in the jungle, from coco beans to gum trees, plants that help with aging to herbal remedies for diabetes.
As I was walking between the great fallen ruins, I hear a thunderously loud crack from the sky. No more than a few feet from me, a great tree branch falls from high above, smashing on the ruins below. A powerful reminder of my small place in this vast world.
Before we go to the next site, we stop in Toledo to eat at a local restaurant. The husband/wife that run the place are amazingly friendly, and the local cuisine was out of this world. Toasting over belikins, we all enjoy the hearty feast.
Nim Li Punit is collection of Stela ( erect stones with engravings on them) in a stunning remote lush green jungle setting. The second largest Stela found so far is here, rising to a little over nine meters.
Stories of ritual human sacrifice are told in the engravings, from disembowelment to the cutting off of men's penises.

Brutal fascination in the realm of religion and fear of one's diety.
Erect stones in a courtyard are believed to be the markings of the Mayan calendar.
I find the stone marking for January, and revel in what will be a New Year the following day. On the last day of 2013, I wish for peace, hope and good health for the upcoming three hundred and sixty five days.

*****


11 February 2014

Maya Beach

Last summer I came across a random blog post about the country of Belize. I'm pretty sure it was one Google search later that took me to TripAdvisor where the Maya Beach Hotel stood out to me as the place I should stay.

Not hardly any research was put into it, more of a feeling that this was the country to go visit, and Maya Beach Hotel was the place to stay.

It's how I roll when I travel. Was it worth the gamble? I arrived after dusk, and the lobby was tiny and cramped, to say the least. Behind the front desk was the gentleman I'd been emailing with the previous months about various things, so I did feel good that he was there and checking me in.

"Let me take to your place where you can get refreshed, then come back to the bar anytime and we'll get you something to eat."

We go around the corner and in the pitch black darkness I hear ocean waves, but no lights lead the way to my abode. Then we come to a house with outside porch lights on....
I wonder which room will be mine, and how intrusive it will be having others staying here as well. That didn't last long though as I was informed the entire place was for me.

This is more like it! A few steps to the ocean, a large patio deck for my leisure, and no neighbors close by.
I had nothing but time. Time to read pages as the waves lapped against the shore. Time to nap in my hammock, listening to the breeze.
Time to ride a local bike into town and shop in the local store for necessities, filling my basket to the brim.
I'd sit on the pier for hours, watching stingrays fly out of the ocean and flap as they would catch the sun's rays before descending. Needle fish would feed below me, picking food off the wooden pier posts in the water. Jellyfish would occasionally pass by. All manner of birds would eat in the abundant waters.
From glorious sunrises to humbling sunsets, I was taking it all in. ( When I wasn't gorging on the succulent cuisine the hotel offered. Truly out of this world!)
After a week here, boarding our little puddle jumper to take me back Stateside was bittersweet. Bitter because of not wanting to leave the special little town of Placencia in Belize.
Sweet because at least I was able to go.