Equal part R&R and adventure.

Today was equal part R&R and adventure. I started with another early morning. I was up for breakfast (an omelet today a much better choice) and down the beach by 7:30 to scope out beach chairs. I couldn’t believe how many had been claimed with towels already. Some of the people didn’t arrive for hours while others I never did see. I managed to snag us two loungers in the shade and then made friends with the stray beach dogs. I passed the morning reading my book. When Michelle arrived I went for a walk along the beach followed by a swim in the Caribbean Sea and a pinacolada from the beach bar. When I was getting my second pina colda I watched them put out a steaming pan of paella and grabbed some for lunch. I’m getting smarter about my meal choices. It wasn’t as good as paella I’ve had in Spain but it was my best meal in Cuba so far.

After lunch we had an excursion booked called the Sugar Tour. It gets you out in to a more rural area of Cuba and I recommend it. Though I think the selling feature for many is the two bottles of rum you get for free at the end of the tour. Most of the passengers were older I think my generation and those younger are spending their days drinking on the beach, their nights drinking and partying and their mornings hungover.

The tour starts with a 35 minute bus ride to our starting point a private sugar plantation. Buses are one of my least favorite forms transportation as they often make me nauseous. Today’s ride was in an air conditioned coach but with the bumpy roads I spent most of my time focused on not getting sick in stead of enjoying the scenery. The plantation is a working one who uses machines for the true harvest but for our purposes we got to see the traditional form of harvesting from machetor (machete master). He harvested some fresh sugar cane and we all got to enjoy a piece. We boarded the bus and headed over to a sugar mill that closed years ago and has been turned in to a museum where we learned how they made brown sugar and molasses. There were also numerous trains on display some live music and various vendors.

We then boarded the train to Cardenas this mode of transportation though bumpy and jerky was far more enjoyable. I sat on the floor in the back cart and watched the country side slip by. The open air allowed for a steady breeze.

We had a half an hour stop over in Cardenas and could either head to the museum, have a drink at the bar or explore. I of course opted to explore, though 30 minutes wasn’t nearly long enough. I saw our bus driver have some kind of deep fried street food and opted to follow suit it was very good. I then wanted something to drink, unfortunately bottled water isn’t really an option and tap water we are suppose to avoid. The shops are sort of hidden and each only carry a few items but I found one that carried some form of canned cola which was super sweet but refreshing. I took a lot of photos in that 30 minute time frame as everything caught my eye. Cuba really is like stepping back in time and I’m loving every minute.

It was a low key evening which included a nap, packing for Havana and calamari and rice for dinner followed by ice cream. My food choices are getting smarter and meals are more enjoyable but not quite a culinary tour.

Wildlife settings
Lots of pelicans and turkey vultures
6 stray dogs
Lots of farm animals (goats, chickens, horses, a couple of cows and an UIC (un-identified creature) possibly an ox)

Classic cars and friendly Cubans

So the first full day of Cuban adventures was a lovely one. Went for a morning swim, got the lowdown on excursions, booked a sugar tour for tomorrow and our Taxi to Havana on Tuesday. We lounged by the poolside and I sipped on a pina colada before lunch. After lunch we walked through Varadero looking at the various shops and art markets before returning to our resort for a swim and dinner. We had a low key evening and then bed.

Flickr Photo Album of our walk through town

I can confirm a few things:

First the food, it’s not that it’s bad, it’s just cold and bland. Even the breads and desserts lack flavor. There is plenty of food around but spices and seasoning are not used at least not at our resort. Even something as simple as salt and pepper are avoided, at least you can add salt at the table but if you want pepper pack your own. We’ll have to try a meal out eventually and compare. As for the temperature, it’s a lot like this mornings shower lukewarm at best and probably better described as cold. All though my taste buds aren’t loving the food so far my tummy is adjusting just fine. The one thing I’d classify as good is the ice cream. Coconut and mango flavored mmm mmm delicious.

Second that classic cars truly are everywhere. For me the vintage automobiles are one of the main reasons Cuba was so high on my bucket list and day 1 they didn’t disappoint. I probably saw a hundred plus as we walked along 1st street. I don’t think I could ever get sick of seeing them. We made arrangements for a classic car to take us to Havana on Tuesday and give us a city tour before dropping us off at our bed and breakfast for the night I can’t wait. I wonder what kind of car we are getting. I hope it’s a beauty, for now here are some photos I took of the ones cruising along 1st street as we walked along and explored the stores and market stalls.

Thirdly that Cubans are very friendly people. Two examples from today, the first was the twenty something guys playing dominos at a table in the street. I’d read this was a popular passtime and was happy to stumble across our first (of a few) sets of four guys playing. I walked along the block towards them under the guise of snapping photos of other things in the hopes of sneaking one of them. You could tell they were paying attention to me so I finally decided just to ask using my rusty Spanish. One replied ‘un photo por un peso’ the rest all laughed but were surprised when I agreed with a happy si por favor. They smiled for the camera and I snapped my photo. They were shocked when I went to get out my peso and wouldn’t accept it. So I thanked them and went on my way. The second example was a lady who was crocheting at her stall at a little market as she sat waiting to sell her creations. Prior to coming here I’d done some research in to the fibre industry and lack there of and found next to nothing. I’m an avid knitter and love buying yarns when I travel but after numerous google searches I discovered there aren’t really yarn shops. That knitting is scarce but cotton crocheting is more common (and we definitely saw lots of crochet dresses / swim suit cover ups for sale). So after visiting countless stalls of souvenirs and handmade items I was happy to stumble upon her crocheting away. I started a conversation with her it was apparent her English was far worse than my broken Spanish but we fumbled through. She wanted to know if I was looking to buy a dress for me I tried to explain that I was more interested in buying yarn. That I knit although I don’t know the word for yarn or knitting we managed to make sense of each other by the number of tools we use 2 for knitting (in reality I regularly use one circular but that was too complicated to explain) and 1 for crotcheting. She then said she also knew how to use 4 and I agreed that I did too for socks (though once again I use 1 circular). She then tried to explain that she uses cotton which I understood but couldn’t think of the word (all that popped in to my head was Baumwohl, my German is so much better than my Spanish) she then explained that she had used small embellishments of a different yarn gifted to her from a friend in Canada which was some form of acrylic blend. She then asked what colour I was looking for and of course I couldn’t think so tried to explain any colour would do. Now I can easily think of all kinds of colors (blanco, negro, azul, verde, rosa) she asked me to wait while she went home to check. She came back with a cone of peach cotton. After asking quantas cuesto she said it was a gift but I insisted she accept my $5 CUC. She explained how to use the single stand cotton to make balls to knit together many strands. Although I’ve never knit with cones I get the concept my nan talks of the days of a ‘yarn barn’ in the Comox Valley. I thanked her and took a photo of her and her current WIP. After I left I made a promise to myself to either take her some of the sock yarn I brought to knit here or get her address to mail her some. So hopefully I can find her.

Wildlife sightings:
Countless chickens and roosters.
Quite a few skinny stray cats
4 lizards
A couple of dogs that might have been stray or waiting around for their Cuban owners.
I also saw my first ever pelican in the wild though I don’t have a picture he flew overhead while we sat at the pool reading our book and I didn’t have a camera with me.

Now it’s relatively early to bed so we van get out there and get a beach chair tomorrow morning for some R&R before our sugar tour.

Our newest adventure

It’s been a long time since I last posted. My heart really went out of it when I lost George in Fairbanks. I love George 2.0 that was lovingly hand made for me by poppysock company, however he’s just a little too big to throw in my purse and is better suited for adventures with #DornytheBoler

However I needed something smaller for more urban adventures. I tried to replace George but I just couldn’t find one that met my needs. I’ll keep my eye out but In the mean time meet my newest adventure companion in memory of the best dog ever, my Huuna who I had as my real life adventure partner for 12 years and had to put down last summer.

I’d been meaning to post leading up to my latest adventure the trip planning, the excitement etc, however I was busy with work and life and it never quite happened. Now I sit in my hotel room and I just needed to put my thoughts in order. It’s 2am here in Varadero but only midnight back home. That’s right you read correctly I’m in Cuba for Spring Break. It’s been so high on my bucket list for so long I decided to splurge as an early 40th birthday present to myself. In reality it’s happy birthday to me from Grannie, I firmly believe she’d approve when I spend my inheritance on travel. She traveled so many places including Cuba.

So now I’m on my first ever Spring break adventure to a sunny destination. After the cold white winter we had this year it was so nice to arrive in Cuba at 10:05pm local time and have a lovely 26 degrees out.

I’m not sure what counts as day 1. Yesterday when vacation actually started, today our travel day or tomorrow our first full day in Cuba. So far it’s been a great adventure. After work yesterday I headed to the mainland to meet up with Michelle my travel buddy, you last saw her on our Meziadin, Stewart, Hyder adventure and to visit with Francis. We wanted a low key night as we had a big travel day today I suggested pizza ,Francis suggested Nook. It was amazing I highly recommend checking it out. Then on the walk back to his place I saw my first ever Skunk. I was so excited I really wanted to take a picture but also didn’t want to get too close in case I got sprayed.

Travel day started early. We left Francis at 5am to catch the Canada Line to the airport, it sure makes that commute easier. Check in was a slow process but we had plenty of time to kill before our first leg of the journey to Ottawa. I slept most of the way. I’ve heard great things about Ottawa but all I saw was the terminal of the airport for 2 hours. Then we were enroute to Veradero I enjoyed a lovely business class upgrade for that leg it really is a nicer way to travel. Thanks Michelle for sharing your lucky seat assignment.

We are staying at the Gran Caribe Palma Real. The bus ride in was entertaining with our guide as part of our air Canada vacation package. Not a lot to see as it was dark out but you could tell the palm trees were there and the beach was close and occasionally you’d glimpse a classic car out the window. When we arrived at our hotel the lobby was a busy place with a few characters that had enjoyed a little too much at the all inclusive bar, so we had some entertainment. My room is pretty basic but clean. I’m ground flour so it doesn’t have the balcony or view I’d hoped for but it wasn’t too hot and the A/C works so I was happy until I saw the cockroach in the bathroom ūüėģ . I know it’s par for the course in warmer cultures and that they don’t bite however they gross me right out. I locked him in the bathroom and went to the front desk. When I got there a few groups were back complaining wanting different rooms. I felt bad for her as she was almost sold out. She was happy to hear that all I wanted was for someone to come kill my cockroach or free him, just get him out of my room. One of the bellhops came back to investigate. He wanted to make sure it wasn’t a snake which he said he was afraid of, something new to worry about. I’d left the light on in the bathroom so of course when we looked he was no longer in the shower. I was a little nervous he’d leave me with wondering where the cockroach had disappeared to but no he pulled out his cell phone and turned on his flashlight and got down on his hands and knees looking for the creature. He found him hiding under the bathroom counter and killed him for me, now that is some excellent customer service. I can’t wait to get out and explore tomorrow but for now it’s time for bed.

Wildlife count –
March 17 – one skunk
March 18 – 1 cockroach

Last Trip of the Season 

it’s hard to believe I haven’t camped since the last night of my epic roadtrip at the beginning of August. I guess I was enjoying the luxury of a queen bed and hot shower. Yesterday as the sun was shining I decided to take the girls and George 2.0


for a short Roadtrip to Rathtrevor provincial park in parksville.


We lucked out with fall camping rates of $11 per night. Though the water pumps and shower house are all locked off. We scored an awesome site and I had no problems backing in.

We were attached to a short trail to the beach. The girls and I took advantage of it before even setting up camp


    

After setting up camp we let Huuna nap in the car while Rosie and I explored some more.


    

We settled in for the night and I was worried fall camping without a furnace would be chilly so I packed fleece pjs, and a wool blanket in addition to my down duvet in the boler and let Rosie sleep on the bed, Huuna chose not to. I was completely wrong twice I woke up sweating hot. The first time I made Rosie get down as she is like a space heater. The 2nd time I took off the wool blanket. Mid October camping in Dorny the Boler was a success. We were even greeted by an amazing sunrise this morning before the rains rolled in.


Everything that could go wrong 

our day started at 12:45 am when our ferry docked at Duke Point in Nanaimo we drove to moms and arrived at 2am. We unloaded a few things and went to bed in the house. I was up at 6:45am for Huuna medicine but went back to bed. I was pretty spoiled mom took the dogs for a walk and I slept till almost 11. Mom also spoiled me by doing some of my laundry.

We tried to go to Tidal Taco for lunch but they were closed so we went back to moms for lunch and a walk with the girls. Huuna insisted on taking Uncle Muskie’s trail to the beach.



We spent the day hanging out and relaxing. After the tide came in I took the girls swimming and gave Huuna a bath as she was a bit smelly.

After dinner we drove home and parked Dorny in the driveway.

The trip was so close to 10,000 klm I felt like maybe I should drive around a bit but I didn’t.

Fred was pretty happy to see us. Though I think she was pretty spoiled by the house sitter.

All trip long people would ask about what went wrong? Honestly the the answer is nothing. Yes I lost George which was sad for sentimental reasons but it was a 14 year old stuffed toy that I won in a vending machine back in 2001 so in the grand scheme not a big issue.

Before heading out on a roadtrip that was scheduled to be 9000+ klm long I had some concerns but tried to prepare for everything that could go wrong. I had my mechanic Daryl, whome I trust and would recommend to anyone, go over the car with a fine tooth comb. My uncle Brian helped prep the Boler and check it out. The auto shop teacher at the local high school taught me to pack the bearings and got me a good deal on spare bearings just in case Id need to replace them on the road. I purchased and carried bear spray. Mom even had me write a will just incase something went drastically wrong.

I did as much research as I could. I fully expected a flat tire so made sure I had a good spare for both car and trailer and the tools to change a tire. I also expected a chipped windshield but read that crazy glue or packing tape can be a temporary fix to keep your windshield from cracking so packed both. I had everything I thought I’d need.

I had 3 big fears before leaving:

1. The 6 bolts that hold the fiberglass ‘egg’ on the frame would give out and the egg would bounce off as I was driving down a gravel road.

2. I’d have major mechanical issues, I’d be stranded and my budget would be competly blown.

3. That while out on the trails with the dogs we’d run into a Grizzly and one or all of us might get severely injured or even killed.

But I’m happy to report that out of everything that could go wrong nothing did go wrong. I didn’t want to write earlier and jinx myself but really other than loosing George there were no issues. No chipped windshield, no flat tire, no bouncing egg, no mechanical issues (just an over priced scheduled oil change in Whitehorse) and no meetings with Grizzlies, just a missing stuffed monkey.

Now for a little PVR time before unpacking and putting everything away. I’ll also need to thoroughly clean both Roo and Dorny.

Am odometer 9823.3

Pm odometer 9954.2

Wildlife sightings: none.

Flickr album

Homeward Bound. 

After I had a shower and the girls had a swim we left our campground and headed for Sonja’s. We were going to go for a picnic but instead we hung out at her place in the lovely air conditioning. Huuna and Rosie were happy that Zoe and Cali shared their place. After lunch I left Kelowna with a plan to drive as far as I felt but aiming for Hope.

As soon as we left the a/c it was smoking hot and there was no plans to stop till it cooled off. The long uphill drive of the connector was a slow go. It was definitely the steepest/ longest route of our entire 10 000 klm Roadtrip. I didn’t want to push Roo too hard as the last thing I wanted to be was broke down on the side of the highway in 33 degree weather. Slow and steady was our method. We got passed by lots of cars, trucks, RVs, motor bikes and the occasional 18 wheeler, however we passed our fair share of broke down vehicles. Part way up the connector we stopped in a shaded break check area to let the girls out.

When we made it to Meritt it was smoking hot so we gassed up and hit the road. The Coquihalla was a breeze compared to the connector but I’m not sure how it would have been north bound. We stopped on a side road for Huuna dinner.


We arrived in Hope and it was still hot. I was wide awake so we kept on driving. When we reached Chilliwack we decided to push on for the 10:45 ferry. We stopped for gas in Aldergrove and almost got caught up in a motorcycle accident scene but some quick thinking and a considerate driver behind me we managed to change lanes. We gassed up but sadly we missed out on corn.


We turned off on to highway 17 and the view of the sunset and the bridges was spectacular I just had to snap a photo.


We arrived at the ferry terminal with lots of time to spare. We are going to nap on the ferry and then drive to moms. After 45 nights on the road in the boler I said we’d sleep in the house. I’m sure that’s what Huuna will prefer. The ferry ride seems to be stressing her out. I think she is having flashbacks to her last epic ferry ride she’ll be happy to get to her grandmas. Now it’s nap time.


Am odometer 9360.0

Pm odometer 9823.3

Wildlife sightings: none

Flickr Album

Hot, hot, hot

today we woke up and it was already warm. We wanted to get on the road before it was too hot so we didn’t laze around. I had a shower and took the girls for a morning walk to the river. It’s really pretty with the three bridges but I forgot my camera. After Our walk we packed up camp and it was already sweaty hot by 9:30. We hit the road which was full of traffic. Revelstoke west was beautiful with funky places to check out like a ghost town and an enchanted forest. However neither was appealing when traveling with 2 dogs on a hot day. We did stop for another swim at a big lake we drove past.


 Then we continued south through Sicamous and the Shuswap I was reminded of the many house boating trips we took with the Uvic crew. We should really consider planning a big central get together. If house boating is out because kids are too small perhaps a group campout.

We went through Enderby, Armstrong and Vernon bypassing them all. The okanagan is known for wine tours and fruit stands but we bypassed them too as it was just too hot for me and the girls.

We headed to Kekutli Bay campground and arrived just before 1 and managed to get the last site. It was a beautiful site on the hillside over looking the lake. We were lucky to have shade and a view. We were also happy there was a slight breeze to make the heat bearable.


    My friend Sonja came over to visit and we sat in the shade catching up on life. In the late afternoon we headed down to the lake. The beach was no pets allowed so we all snuck in for a swim at the boat launch.

Since everyone had cooled off we drove back to Vernon to visit a lovely orchard and get some fresh peaches.


We grabbed a bbq chicken at the grocery store and headed back to the campsite for dinner that included sweet chilliwack corn and a spectacular view.


After dinner as we sat out enjoying the view I was saddened by how quickly it got dark. A clear sign that my northern summer vacation is coming to an end. I never really needed to use a flashlight until I was coming down through Dawson Creek now it seems I need one earlier and earlier in the evening.


Am odometer 9155.0

Pm odometer 9360.0

Wildlife sightings: 12 quail at my campsite as well as UIC (looked like giant guinea pig with a tail. The body was over a foot long. It was light brown and fat)

Flickr Album