Monday, December 21, 2009

Amazon Adventure Day 30– Sea Day

Amazon Adventure Day 30– Sea Day

This morning was cold and cloudy when we got up. As we have sailed north the weather has changed quite a bit. We have gone from the 90’s to the 60’s and tomorrow it will be only 45F in Fort Lauderdale. While it feels like time to head home I am not looking forward to the deep freeze of a Calgary winter. The getting up at 5:20 Am in the dark to catch the train to work, the standing on the train platform as the North wind howls down Crowchild Trail is just not very appealing.

This has really been quite a trip. In a lot of ways it was a real eye opener. The Amazon was a lot bigger than I expected, and a lot muddier. The towns along the way were a lot bigger and busier than I had expected. However I was glad to see that the rain forest has not been totally cut down.

Holland America did a great job of taking the ship up the Amazon. They did a great job with the meals, the entertainment and providing a great value. Having said that the Prinsendam is now 21 years old and she is showing her age. Carpets need replacement, elevators are slow and are often out of service, the automatic doors in the Lido are temperamental, and the air conditioning is suspect as sometimes it is boiling hot in one room and the next time it is freezing. At 38,000 tons the Prinsendam is a small ship by today’s standard. So it gives a much different feel than the large ships. In some ways more intimate and in others cramped.

The other thing I have forgotten to talk about is the malaria thing. I had been expecting mosquitoes the like of which would put Northern Alberta to shame. It was the end of the dry season so there were lots of weird bugs but no mosquitoes. We had been taking the malaria medicine Malarone. You start taking it a couple of days before hand and then for a week after you leave the malaria zone. It has an interesting side effect which is that you have very vivid dreams. So the last couple of weeks have been quite entertaining. Every night it has been everything from fighting giant bugs, to attending high level world conferences.

Tomorrow we dock in Fort Lauderdale and catch a plane home. Then it gets busy, putting up Christmas trees, and getting ready for all that craziness.


Amazon Adventure Day 29– Sea Day

This morning was Holland America’s Walk for the Cure campaign. Agnes and I had signed up to do the 5k walk on deck. So we had a hardy breakfast and headed down to the walk. Jim and Sandra were there as well. Jim had bailed out and wasn’t doing the walk but was going to walk part way. Everyone had on the white t-shirt with the pink ribbon on it so it was a festive atmosphere. I got mired in the pack and it took me a couple of laps to get out front. However with it being 4 laps/mile I had several laps to spare. Out front was this other fellow and the two of us had the 14 laps as the prescribed distance knocked off with at least a 2 lap margin on the nearest competitors. Ya, Ok it was a bunch of geezers but we were still first. Not that I am competitive or something. I walked a couple of extra laps to get pictures of Agnes completing her first 5k.

In the afternoon I put some sun screen on and found a nice deck chair to snooze in and catch a few rays. It was great.

Just one sea day left on this trip. YIKES! Before it is back to the deep freeze.


Amazon Adventure – Terry’s rant – A note on safety

There is an old joke about the crew on the cruise ships that when asked what they would do if they found an unconscious passenger lying in one of the lounges, and the answer is that they would vacuum the lounge later.

Before I go into this let me describe the lay out of the main buffet area on the ship, which is called the Lido deck. In the middle of the ship there is a swimming pool and bunch of tables, deck chairs loungers etc. Directly behind that is the Lido restaurant which has two doors to the pool area and two doors to the deck area behind the restaurant. The restaurant has two large buffets located in the middle and tables around it. The area behind the Lido Restaurant is covered by a canvas top which acts as a sun shade but is segmented so does not stop the rain. As I said there are two doors to this stern area. These doors are activated by motion sensors located above the doors. One door doesn’t work and has been blocked off the entire cruise. It was a poor design when the ship was launched and 21 years later it has totally failed. The other door is temperamental sometimes sticking and jamming. At any given time there are 50- 100 people eating or just enjoying the view from this area.

So the other day along comes this rain squall and all of a sudden the rain is just hammering down. Everyone jumps out of their seats and mobs the one door. It immediately jams trapping close to 100 people who were eating lunch. Two of the large men immediately start jerking on the door but it is jammed. Others are screaming, some people are banging on the widows of the restaurant. Mean while the four or so crew in the stern area just continue to bus the dishes. I am just standing there amazed at the wild panic, and thinking “MY GOD what if this were a real emergency.” A few minutes later an officer came and released the door ending the panic.

However this kind of opened my eyes and as I looked around there are a bunch of other areas where one has to look out. The main lounge area where the shows are held, seats 300-400 people. It has two aisles. The people riding scooters regularly come about half way down and block those aisles. If there were an emergency in the lounge and you had to get out good luck. Same thing in the main dinning room scooters are parked in the aisles with no regard for the safety issue. A bunch of these scooters are rented to people for the cruise and no regard is given to educating these people.

In case you didn’t know that the length of a cruise is directly proportional to the age of the passengers. The longer the cruise to older they get. On this cruise my estimate is that 30% cannot negotiate stairs. In an emergency there would be no elevators. How do these people get to the life boats? How do the other 70% of the people get to lifeboats with these people blocking the stairs?

So what is the lesson here? Sit at the back of the lounge. Don’t get caught in a mad panic. Know where your life jacket is.

Amazon Adventure Day 28– St Thomas US Virgin Islands

When the ship docked in St Thomas the US Customs and Immigration officials came aboard and everyone had to show their passport. It was more of a formality than a real inspection as I don’t think that anyone really expects terrorists to be sneaking in on cruise ships. So after the quick passport check it was off to enjoy a day on St. Thomas.

St Thomas is famous for one think and that is the duty free shopping. I think there are more jewellery shops than people on St Thomas. So we walked down the gang plank and headed off to do some shopping.

The cabs are Ford F-150’s with and specially built benches replacing the standard box. The cab carries 14 people so the $5.00 net the driver $70 for the 10 minute ride into downtown. The cruise ship industry is good. However I don’t think I would walk the two miles into town in the 85F sun for the $5.00.

Upon arriving downtown we weren’t the first ones there as the place was crowded with tourists. As I mentioned there are lots of jewellery shops so we wandered from one to the next. Agnes was looking for a ring and as was happy to follow along. It sounded like an easy out on Christmas shopping to me. Looking a beautiful things isn’t hard to take. Agnes found her treasure in about the third shop and with a few t-shirts we headed back to the ship.

There is a huge terminal at Crown Bay where we were tied up with a hundred wifi hot spot signs. Two years ago when we were in St Thomas I did my e-mails there so I thought there would be no problem. However the free internet of two years ago was gone and now it was $9.95. All you had to do was put your credit card number on an unsecured internet site. RIGHT! So after trying a few spots with no luck I decided to call it a day.

Just two sea days left on this trip. YIKES! Before it is back to the deep freeze.


Amazon Adventure Day 27– Roseau Dominica

What a beautiful jewel of an island Dominica is. It has these huge mountains that reach right up to the clouds. So when we got up there we are looking out over the crystal clear blue waters of the bay which is offset by the magnificent green mountains of Dominica. The little town of Roseau is a typical little island town with lots of venders trying to sell t-shirts and souvenirs made in China to the tourists. Along with hundreds of guys trying to get you take an island tour in their cab ($15 for an island tour mon). Well actually I am being a little hard on it. Dominica is not on the main stream of the cruise ships. So there are fewer venders and a lot of the goods which are for sale here are clothes which are sewn locally. So if you are looking for a Hawaiian shirt or dress with palm trees on it I would recommend Dominica.

The island tours here take you up in to the jungle which cover the island and to the water falls and though the forest preserve. It is all very beautiful and if you have never been to Dominica well worth the $15.00. However as I have been here several times I opted to do my blog and to sit in an outdoor café and drink the local beer which at $2.00 is an excellent value. It was close to 90 f and the beer was at close to 32 F, so they made a perfect combination. Dominica is one of the few island with their own brewery and I think they are quite proud of it. I was told that and took it at face value.

Tomorrow was Election Day in Dominica for President/Prime Minister. It looked like there were three parties. The left of center Labour Party, the Marxist Party, and the “We hate that right wing Marxist Party. As we were sitting drinking beer we were listening to the debate on the radio and were amazed at the names these guys are calling each other. No debate just name calling. Each party had vans with loud speakers mounted on them driving around encouraging people to vote for them and not those other capitalist zealots. But then who understands local politics? Somebody who just stumbled off a cruise ship? You would take his word!!

There are no beaches in Dominica however the snokeling and the diving is great here. I have been snokeling in Dominica and it is great. It is just a little hard to get to and well there isn’t much in the way of great hotels either. The Fort Hotel is built into/around the original fort built by the French, captured by the Spanish and taken over by the British. It is not really a destination hotel.

Don’t get me wrong on this one it is really beautiful here, and the beer was great.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Amazon Adventure Day 26 – Sea Day

Well the adventure is winding down as we have only six more days before we have to face reality. The question is really what is that reality? Is it the -46 C of a few days ago? I sure hope not. Last year I was able to skate around most of winters nasty surprises. However as there much fewer breaks scheduled this year I think I am going to have to suck it up.

Hopefully I can find a decent internet connection and post some of the posts. They are all typed out and on my USB drive. However most high speed here in the Caribbean means Island Time, which for those of you haven’t been here it means slow. Posting pictures is almost impossible. As I am almost computer illiterate shrinking the pictures down is beyond my ability.

Bridgetown is a beautiful place. The sand here is pure white and the weather the perfect. I guess that they get hurricanes here so I suppose it has its down side but today it is wonderful. The beer is cold and cheap ($1.00). The cab ride into town was great and we wandered around looking though the local shops hoping to find a treasure not made in China. However as this is a big stop for all of the cruise ships it was not too likely. I thought I may find a new game for my PSP but they are twice the money of back home in Wal Mart. Go Figure.


Amazon Adventure Day 25 – Sea Day

Last night I thought no use taking any chances with everyone sea sick around me so I took a Dramamine. I knew that I didn’t have any heavy equipment to operate later that night and today being a sea day I knew that the biggest item on the agenda was lying on a deck chair soaking up the rays.

So I turn on CNN (yes even in the middle of the ocean you get CNN) and there is a new story that it is -46 C in Edmonton. OUCH! It is beautiful here at close to 25 C.

The Dramamine worked great I sleep right though until 9:30 Am catching 10.5 hours of sleep. So having slept so late there was no time for the gym so we headed straight to breakfast. It fixed Agnes up as well and everyone is feeling much better.

After breakfast, I found a deck chair in the sun and with a huge go cup filled with scotch and ice, I settled in to read and nap. It is a hard life but someone has to do it.


Amazon Adventure Day 24 – Sea Day

This morning the sea is quite rough and the boat is pitching a fair amount. I was up relatively early and hit the gym. There I met a few of the regulars and one of them was saying that he had walked though the Lido (buffet section of the ship) and he saw a lot of people sitting in bathrobes and look pretty green.

I did my 105 minutes on the elliptical and headed down stairs to shower and get ready for breakfast. I caught up with Agnes on the Lido deck looking a bit green. This is really surprising as we have been on a lot of cruises and she has never been motion sick once.

Today was the big past passenger brunch so with Agnes out of commission I headed off to it by myself. It was great. Lots of wine with the meal and lots of nice words being said by the crew about how happy that we are all such good customers – Right!

This was only the second free drink of the cruise. One when you get on and here is a second one. I am really underwhelmed. It use to be that there was always a free drink being poured. The comedian the other day was talking about the airlines and what now constitutes a “frill” Looks like a drink on a cruise has become a frill. They are charging $4.75 US for a beer on the ship, and $4.95 for a highball. Come on you get the bottle for $6-7 due free, and add a splash of Coke. Good thing I brought two 1.75 Liter bottles of Johnny Walker with me. As I am down to the bottom half of the second day I looks like I will make it.

On the frills thing they have taken away the trays in the buffet. So now you have to carry around your plates and cups without a tray. The official reason is that people with a cane cannot carry a tray. However the hotel manger reviled at the morning coffee and chat session that by taking way the trays it has cut down food consumption by 20%.

With Agnes out of commission I get dressed for tonight’s formal dinner and head out. It is great as usual.


Amazon Adventure Day 23 – Sea Day

After a week of activity every day, a day off is very welcome.

I sleep in and then go to the gym Thirty minutes on the elliptical trainer and thirty minute lifting weights is great. A hearty breakfast finishes the morning off .

In the afternoon is the ship’s King Neptune festival which celebrates the crossing of the equator. King Neptune is seated on a throne on the main deck and is presiding over punishing of Polly-Wogs (ship’s crew who have not crossed equator before). The crimes the crew have committed include over feeding the passengers, being to fastidious in the cleaning of the ship, to laziness, to making the ship do too fast. On the one side of King Neptune is the huge prehistoric looking cat fish which was typical of Amazon fish, resting on this block of ice. The punishment to the offenders is to “KISS THE FISH” , after which they are covered in this slimy foam and thrown into the pool. Totally hilarious! The ship did a great job.

This evening the ships entertainment is a stand up comedian. He tells a lot of funny jokes and has a great act.

As we venture further into the Atlantic the water is getting rougher and the ship is pitching quite a bit. Tomorrow could be trouble for a lot of people.


Amazon Adventure Day 22 – Alter Do Chao Brazil

Today we are taking this trip up to Santa Lucia Arboretum. The ship has taken a side trip up this other branch of the river which is black water rather than the muddy brown of the Amazon. So we are at anchor at this little town of Alter Do Chao. It is a holiday resort town for the city of Santarem. Being the river is so low we are anchored miles out in the river and the tender ride is probably 20 minutes. The beaches there are fabulous and it is almost too bad we are taking this trip as it would be fun to just lie on the beach and swim in the river. The day is about 100 F, with bright sun shining down. A perfect beach day.

We board these ancient old buses for the one hour ride up to the Santa Lucia Arboretum. The Arboretum is up on this plateau well above the flood plane of the river. The buses have no AC and it is sweltering in the bus. Fortunately I get a window seat where the window opens. Once moving it isn’t too bad and I do my best dog imitation by hanging my head out of the window.

The Arboretum is this place in the jungle which has been set aside because of it unique vegetation, and huge variety of plants and trees. We see trees which are hundreds of years old and see a lot of different variety of plants. It is amazing how much diversity there is. The Brazil nut trees are 60 meters high and there are other huge palms and iron wood trees. The Brazil nut grows in this round hard pod with 5-8 nuts in side. We only see the nuts after the pod is gone. It was a great trip and we saw a lot more jungle. The trip back to town is much faster as the ancient old bus doesn’t have to labour up the hills.

Back on the beach we enjoy bartering with the locals for t-shirts, blow guns and other trinkets.

The ship leaves Brazil today but it will take us from 2:00 PM until 8:30 PM to clear the river and past midnight to get past the shallow bar at the mouth of the river.

What a great day!


Amazon Adventure Day 21 – Parintins

This morning the ship is anchored at a little town called Parintins. It has become some what famous for a couple of things. The first is that it was the site of a Microsoft experiment with a form of long range wi-fi. It supposedly covers mile rather than the typical 180 feet of the normal type of wi-fi. My machine can see it but can’t pull it in. I need and arial for my lap top. The second thing it is famous for is it puts on a Boi Bumba show. This is the dancing which is popular for the Rio festival. This show is kind of a warm up act for people who are hoping to get a spot in one of the big time

There isn’t much in the little town to see as there are only thirty thousand inhabitants and they are spread out over several square miles. So we have a leisurely lunch and then head off to the tenders into town. The town is putting on a special Boi Bumba show for the ship, and we have tickets. When we get there we see that everyone on the ship is already there and we are seated in the back. However we can still see the show so it isn’t so bad. What a show it is. The costumes are fabulous. Wild feathers and colourful patterns. Huge animals made of feathers and paper machete. The story is that the farmers pregnant wife falls in love with the landowners cow and then the farmer kills the cow. Big trouble then as the landowner isn’t very happy. However the witch doctor revives the cow and every body lives happily ever after. My Portuguese is not that great so I may have some of the details wrong on the story. But it was a great show and the dancing was out of this world.

After the show we wandered the little town before boarding the tender back to the ship. It is a very clean little town. The streets are paved and there are lots of shops selling goods made in China. We stop and look in this one shop which sells farm type implements. You can buy an amazing variety machete for the equivalent of $12.00. Or a marine diesel engine for $20,000.

Tomorrow we have our last stop on the river.


Amazon Adventure Day 20 – Manaus Brazil Day 2

This morning it is pouring rain. And I mean pouring rain. Like it is a rain forest so what do you expect? This is the start of the rainy season so it is to be expected. How exactly you get a rainy season/dry season when you are on the equator I am not sure but they do.

We are headed off on this hour jungle tour today entitled “Off the beaten track”. It is suppose to show us jungle skills and little seen parts of the jungle. We depart the ship and it is a small group of 15 people who are on this tour. We are put onto this speed boat and head up river. The driver fly’s along at an unbelievieble speed considering that the visibility is almost zero due the heavy rain. Hitting a log or un-marked boat would have spelled disaster.

In about 40 minutes we are well up stream from Manaus and get off on the opposite bank. There is a jungle lodge there but it is not being used because of some sort of family dispute. There we meet our jungle guide “JR” who is an army jungle survival expert and he is to show us the secrets of the jungle.

As we trudge up a large hill away from the river we are immediately swallowed by the jungle. The pouring rain darkens the sky and there we are in the real jungle. A few minutes later we stop at small hole and JR pulls a huge tarantula out off the hole. It is at least 8 inches across. He shows us how blow guns are made, how to make a shelter from palm fronds. Don’t touch the trees they have spikes and bugs. You can’t see the spikes but when you rub against the tree the spikes pop up. Then JR rubs this other tree and banks it a couple of times with his machete and these huge scorpion ants (very deadly) appear. We see an amazing number of things that are in the jungle. Three hours later we slog out of the jungle soaked to the skin, and totally amazed at the things the jungle contains.

I have to say this was probably as close to the real thing as it comes.
Today the ship heads back down stream. We have a couple of more stops on the river. Wow what an adventure.


Amazon Adventure Day 19 – Manaus Brazil

This morning I got up for a little 5.5 mile run before the ship ties up in Manaus. We are headed off on this seven hour jungle tour today.

However before I start in to that I need to talk about this other thing which is that everything here is in Portuguese. So of course everything has huge tongue twister name. No 5-10 letter names! Everything has to have 25-50 letters and is totally unpronounceable. There is almost zero English. What the heck is wrong with these people any way?

There was a Dutch night aboard, and everyone had to wear these little Dutch hats. The men had these little black baseball type caps and the women these white hats with little wings on them. I am sure you have seen pictures. Normally I wear this black Nike running cap which is a baseball type of thing to keep the sun from burning me up. Just to keep it light I have taken to asking if it makes me look Dutch. (wooden shoes, wooden head, wooden listen).

Manaus is on the Negro River which is totally black compared to the Amazon which is brown. At Manaus the two rivers meet and become one. However they flow side by side for miles with this huge strip. The Negro river is black because of the decaying vegetation in the water, where as the Amazon has a lot of clay in it.

Ok back to the jungle tour. Again we get on the river boat and head off. After an hour boat ride we get to this little village where we walk though the jungle to this place where there are these huge lily pads. These lily pads are at least 3-4 feet across. It was pretty impressive. The rest of the jungle is pretty interesting. However it is kind of prepared for the tourists. So, no slogging though waist deep water and slashing down vines with a machete. Lots of interesting trees and stuff but it isn’t like the movies. Later we go on this canoe ride in the Amazon which was in fact pretty authentic.

It’s a hard life but some one has to do it.


Amazon Adventure Day 18 – Boca Da Valeria Brazil

This morning the ship is anchored in from of this tiny village, Boca Da Valeria of supposedly 80 people. The idea is that we get to see how the locals live. We are going to tender to the village. The residents are going to be out to greet the ship.

Well yes, the tenders are lowered and everyone is ferried over to the village. When we get there, there are maybe 200 kids and yah they are all real cute. Right! Every one of them is saying in very bad English “Dollar, Dollar”. Some of them have an iguana on a string, or a sloth, or are dressed in their festival costume and the idea is that you take their picture and then give them a dollar. One kid even had a large bug on a string. Mind you it was about 8 inches long. I would guess it was some sort of grass hopper type of bug.

So you walk up to the village which is a typical jungle village of 6-10 buildings on stilts and there is a little school, a little church and even a bar. What is unbelievable is that the average age of the people we saw was maybe 10. No old people. Very few adults and a lot of kids. So each adult has 10-20 kids or they were imported for this special occasion.

When, we have been on these sight seeing trips before we have always been told “Don’t give the kids money! It turns them into beggars.” Well that isn’t what was being done here. Don’t get me wrong I am all for helping the third world and all for helping these people find new ways of joining this century, etc. etc. However I am not sure that this was the right thing. Well, it was an interesting little side trip into something. I am not sure what. A few scotches and I am sure we could figure out what it all means.

After a wonderful meal in the dining room the third world is forgotten. My 10 oz NY strip was perfect. After supper was a bug hunt on the ship. As sun down is 6:20 Pm and it is dark (pitch dark) by 6:45, the ship is this huge brightly light object which attracts all manner of bugs. On deck I saw some moths with 6-8 inch wing spans and a thousand other bugs which go beyond description.

It’s a hard life but some one has to do it.


Amazon Adventure Day 17 – Santarem Brazil

I was up early in the morning to go piranha fishing. The most vicious dangerous fish in the entire world, and we are off to catch them. WOW! So the ship docks in the city of Santarem and a small river boat comes along side the Prinsendam and we get on the river boat.

I guess that I should back up a bit here and tell you a little bit about the situation. Forget those pictures of the Amazon you have seen where there is a little dug out canoe widing though the jungle. WRONG. The Amazon is huge. I mean really huge. It is some thing like 150 miles wide at the mouth and even though we are a couple of hundred miles inland at this point it is still something like 25 miles wide. So there are hundreds of these river boats which ply the river. Generally they are about 30 feet long, with two decks. The lower deck might have anything from cattle to passengers who sleep in hammocks. The top deck generally has plastic chairs. They are all painted white with blue trim.

At any rate we get on this boat and head off across the Amazon to this other river called the Tapajos River. Once on this river it is starting to feel like the pictures we were talking about earlier. Small little river with dug out canoes. However it is the end of dry season here so the river is at its very lowest. The river goes up by 25-30 meters from lowest to highest. So we are at the bottom of these huge river banks with the jungle way above us. There are several of the river boats in a line so I commented that it was kind of like the jungle safari ride at Disneyland. About 30 minutes up the river we pull over to start fishing. There are lots of bits but only one piranha is caught. Although the fish is quite small (6-8 inches) it has a huge set of teeth and I can see how a school of them could clean the meat off your bones in minutes.

Back on board the Prinsendam, it is Jim and Sandra’s 38 wedding anniversary. So we are going to the Pinnacle Grill which is this incredibly fancy restaurant on board. A quick shower to get cleaned up and we are off to eat. I have this 18 oz fillet mignon. It is maybe the best fillet mignon I have ever had. I won’t bore you with the rest of the details of the meal but let’s just give this place a five star rating.

It’s a hard life but some one has to do it.


Amazon Adventure Day 16 – Macapa Brazil

Well I finally got up early and did a run on the treadmill. My Achilles tendon which has been bothering me seems to have settled down and is behaving again. So an hour later I had run 5.5 miles and it felt great. Running on a treadmill isn’t a lot of fun as the scenery doesn’t change much however the gym is at 75 F. On deck it is close to 85 F and it is just a little too hot and humid to be enjoyable. In addition the running track on this ship is up on the top deck and is probably only 500 feet around so it is 10+ laps/mile. I don’t think I could do a 55 lap run and keep from getting dizzy.

By the time I got up the crew had cleaned away last nights bugs and only a few beetles remained in corners where the hoses had not swept them away (I later saw a clean up detail which had 5 gallon buckets filled with bugs). The Brazilian officials were on board and clearing the ship through customs. A Brazilian gun boat hovered near by in case the cruise ship made any hostile manoeuvres. Fortunately the cruise ship waited patiently at anchor and we cleared customs. After that the ship was allowed to tie up at a pier where wood chips were being loaded into bulk carriers. The wood chips were headed to Japan where they were made into furniture. It was a major operation.

The pier was around 20 miles from Macapa so we took a tour bus into town to see the sights. Macapa is a town of around 600,000. It is right at the mouth of the Amazon so the Portuguese built a fort to protect their colony here in Brazil from the French who were trying to colonize South America. Just as we got to the fort the sky opens up and drowns everyone with a huge cloud burst. I guess that is why it is called a rain forest. After the fort we went to see some local crafts at this artisan’s house. There were lots of great carvings and wooden objects as well as some beautiful pottery (no pictures please). Unfortunately none of it would have fit into my suitcase. There were these carved wooden fish which were stunning (and cheap too) but at 48” too big. We then went to see this monument which is built on the equator. Macapa is one of only five cities in the world which lay on the equator. It was fun sanding on the line which separates the northern and southern hemispheres. Taking pictures and making jokes about whether you liked the north more than the south. After a quick stop at a museum, which was in the process of being rebuilt and was all in Portuguese and therefore totally unintelligible, it was back to the ship.

We were told that this is only the second cruise ship to ever stop at Macapa. I believe it as locals were out taking pictures of the ship. This was a pretty back water kind of a place. It kind of reminded me of rural Mexico. Garbage every where. Open air garages, and car service shops next to open air cafes and houses. Everything just mixed up. I looked for a internet café to make a post but I doubt that any one in Macapa even knew what a computer was.

Well may be that was unkind but it is definitely not on the main track.


Amazon Adventure Day 15 – A Sea Day

It is really hard to believe that we have been gone over two weeks and that we are half way through the trip. It has been a really relaxing trip, yet there have been adventures exploring small Caribbean islands and seeing different things.

The sea day takes us into the mouth of the Amazon and even though we are still a few hundred miles from the mouth of the river the water is the colour of milk chocolate from all the sediment in the water. The ship is just barely moving along and there is a lot of speculation as to why we are going so slowly. At lunch time the captain comes on the intercom to tell us that we are moving so slowly as the water is only a few feet deeper than the draft of the ship. Yet here we are a few hundred miles off shore. Incredible! We are not scheduled to enter the river until tonight.

I guess that an afternoon nap is probably the order of the day. Tomorrow we are in Brazil and will be standing on the equator. Actually we are technically on the equator right now. The information on the navigation screen of the TV shows just 5 minutes difference between sunrise and sunset. So, as we approach Dec 21 that time will become zero. There is your little factoid for the day.

Bedtime and I thought I would check to see if I can see any of the jungle. As I step out side the ship is covered in bugs!! One flies right into my eye! I swat it away. One lands on my foot and starts to crawl between my toes. YIKES!! Thousands of beetles about 1-1.5 inches long are covering the deck and sides of the ship. Moths, everything from tiny little ones to huge 6 inch wing spans. Moths with clear wings, to this one which is a beautiful emerald green colour and about 4 inches across, they are everywhere, and of every description.

Welcome to the jungle (somebody said that but I don’t think they were talking about this).


Amazon Adventure Day 14 – Devils Island

The ship is anchored just off of Devils Island. It is really three tiny islands which together are called Devils Island. This is one of the most notorious prisons in history. Originally the French were going to colonize French Guiana and sent ship loads of settlers looking to colonize this area of the new world. Yet the malaria, insects, bad food, over work, foul water and shark infested waters took a huge toll. As a settlement it was a huge failure so they turned it into a penal colony. The French sent something like 80,000 men to this prison in the first 10 years that it operated and only a few hundred of them came home. Well something like that any way. Yet anchored here it looks like a tropical paradise. The islands are covered with palms and look absolutely stunning.

Since we are anchored here we are tendering to the island. There is huge line up to get on to the tenders as it is a little rough and the crew is having trouble loading the scooters on the tenders (wouldn’t you just know it). However once a shore we realized that it really wasn’t a paradise. It is 95F and 100% humidity. The small climb up the hill from the pier to the remains of the prison was totally draining. The prison was built out of volcanic rock, which was quarried from the center of the island to make a reservoir. The jungle had reclaimed a major part of the prison but it is now being restored, by a French hotelier who has converted the guard’s quarters into a hotel. The prisoners where held in either the main building which had more murders than any place on earth or in these tiny solitary confinement cells. The prisoners in solitary confinement were sentenced for 1-10 years in solitary for escape attempts. It looked like a pretty scary place to me. Compared to Alcatraz, I think I would choose Alcatraz.

Tomorrow is a sea day. YA!


Amazon Adventure Day 13 – A day at Sea

After leaving Grenada we head south across the Caribbean Sea to Devils Island. It is really hard to comprehend how large the ocean is when here we are just crossing one little corner of it and it takes over 24 hours to do so. A sea day means lots of time to just take it easy. Do what ever pleases you most.

I got up and hit the gym doing 90 minutes on the elliptical. It was good to get a good sweat going and I left the gym totally soaked. I need to do a little running as it is now less than 3 months to the next marathon and here I am not training. Besides which Chris is just going to kick my butt when I get home. However my eating plan does appear to be paying benefits as it would appear that I have moved my belt out a full notch.

After a hearty breakfast on the stern of an omelette and more bacon than you can imagine I pulled on my swim suit and headed for the deck chairs. I have found a couple of good books and a day spent sunning myself and reading is just what I need.

At supper tonight our usual dinner companions were not there. Instead this couple from Nova Scotia joined us. They were quite good company and told stories of life in the Maritimes. We compared cruises which we have taken and exchanged travel stories. Then totally out of the blue they jump on the fact that there are a lot of handicapped scooters on this trip. They just hated them they jam the passageways and he was run down by one in the library. So I am not alone in despising the scooter trash.

Tomorrow is Devils Island. (more French stuff)


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

More Pictures
  1. Every evening the room steward makes a towel aninmal on you bed. I think it is a rabbit.
  2. Ice carving on deck
  3. Hanging out of a bus window pretending to be a dog.
  4. Something in the jungle
  5. Orchid in the jungle



Well I can't post my notes so here are a few more pictures. If you are honest you probably are happy about it anyway.
  1. Looking up at the jungle canopy. Probably a Brazil nut tree which can reach 85 meters
  2. Jim pcking out a machete for jungle exploration
  3. Santa Claus in a small town (it starts with the letter P) Partini or something
  4. Another shot of the Boi Bumba show. The cow plays a central role how ever as my Portugese is not that great I cannot actully tell you what the story is
  5. More Bio Bumba picture

    I will get the notes up as soon as I can


Ok Still cannot post my notes so here are a few more pictures;
  1. Boi Bumba Show this is a dance show which was put on in honor of the ship visit to this small town. It was a fantastic dispaly of feathers and dance. It is similar to the big Rio festival.
  2. Street shot from Manaus. This was the big town at the head waters of the AMazon
  3. Jungle scene -- Raining -- Like this is the rain forest in case you missed that part
  4. Drinking water from a jungle vine

More later:


Ok The internet cafe where I am at will not let me copy my carefully written and edited postings which were made on my laptop. SO you don't get to read all the wit which was so carefully prepared. So Here are some pictures.
  1. This is a scene from this jungle treck we did out on Manaus. The trek was great we saw how the native indians live in the jungle.
  2. This is giant moth which landed on the boat one night. Iti s about 4" across. Everynight the boat which is this huge illuminated object attrachs thousands of bugs
  3. Indian village where we stopped one day
  4. Typical scene along the Amazon of native boats where the people live on the river.
  5. Pharina fishing where we went on this tour to catch the deadly little guys.

    More later


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Amazon Adventure Day 12 - Grenada

Wow what a beautiful place this is. The boat is tied up to a pier right down town St. George in Grenada. The coral pink of the houses set in the green of the hill side. Magnificent blue sea and brilliant blue sky with little white puffy clouds. Of course it is 85F and 100% humidity so your clothes are stuck to you. Even my Tommy Bahamas silk shirt is stuck down. Never the less I don’t think I would trade for 0F and the freezing weather of Calgary.

Grenada is the spice island of the Caribbean and here they are all selling little boxes of spices. Three dollars each. If you bargain real hard they will come down and you can talk them into “3 for $9.00 Mon” Fort St George is right off the center of downtown and was constructed in 1660 by the French but they surrendered to the British. DUH! It is the best preserved fort in the Caribbean and of considerable historical note. The prime minister of Grenada was assassinated at the fort and the place fell in to the hands of the commies before Ronald Regan intervened and the US Marine corp. ousted them and restored democracy to this lovely little piece of paradise.

We walked around downtown and it seems like the commies are gone for good as it is a beehive of activity. The cars are all new and right hand drive. The shops filled with goods and the people look happy and industrious. The security is the highest I have seen any where in the Caribbean. X=ray on the dock and efficient looking personnel.

Tomorrow is the last sea day for a while and then it is Devils Island. (more French stuff) and then Brazil and the jungle. WOW!

Sorry for the lack of pictures but they just discovered the internet and everything here is on island time. So high speed means something else.


Amazon Adventure Day 11 - A sea day

There is really nothing like a sea day. I was up early and hit the gym. Spent 2.5 hours on the elliptical this morning. It was great just pounding it out. The machine looks out over the ocean and you can watch the waves. During that time I talked to half a dozen people who can in to use the gym and stayed 0-5 minutes. I watched a rain storm blow across the ocean and pound down for about 20 minutes and then we were through it.

There are a huge number of handicapped scooters on the ship. “Sea Side Scooter Rentals” out of Ft Lauderdale really cleaned up. So at lunch time I am saying how amusing it was when one to the scooter gets high centered on one of the raised thresholds, on the ship most thresholds are raised to keep water out, but have little ramps for wheel chairs. Everyone at the table pooh-poohs my story saying that I am exaggerating. Fine don’t believe me! Then we head out from lunch and there in the door way to the lunch buffet is a senior in their scooter high centered. All four wheels in the air and just screaming! I laughed so hard I couldn’t believe it. Just part of the wonders of cruise travel.

Well tomorrow we are in Grenada. I hear that it was a hot bed of commies at one time.


Amazon Adventure Day 10 - A Day In Aruba

What a quaint place Aruba is. Everything is painted in vibrant colours, set off with white trim. Right on the main strip is a giant Little Switzerland Jewllery store and mall which is painted bright pink with white ginger bread lattice work on it. This sets off the marina where there are lots of for charter boats. It looks like it is around half the Fort Lauderdale pricing.

The place is a real beehive of activity with all the locals out hustling taxi and trying to sell “Island Tours Mon”. I guess that you have to be out there and after it is you make your money when the cruise ships arrive.

We have been to Aruba a couple of times and it is always really pretty the snokeling is great and the beaches wonderful. However today we just wandered down the main street and took in the local flavour. Along the sea wall there were huge iguanas sunning themselves. They are amazingly fast though. They just sit there and watch you walk right up to them and then when you get close they just vanish.

Well tomorrow is a sea day so I get to relax.