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Hot and Cold Water

We had a pretty active day here in Roturua. In the morning we visited the Te Puia Maori cultural experience. The place was set on a plot of thermally active land. We arrived well before our prebooked 10:15 cultural show so we spent a little time walking over to their main active geyser. We saw it erupt in clouds of steam and mist. To our surprise rather than explode in one big column of water it went on for quite some time. In the end we had to leave for the show before it had finished.

The show was interesting but not astounding. I think part of it is because the maoris here are a long way removed from those who performed the dances and rituals we were shown. Nevertheless we got to see how one village would approach and greet visitors, some singing and dancing including some audience participation huka dancing.

After the show we were given a guided tour of the complex. We were shown where they keep their arts of carving and weaving alive. That was pretty interesting. They had a nocturnal kiwi exhibit where we saw a pair of the strange birds moving around in an artificial night time habitat.

After a stop at a mud pool we were taken to the geyser we had seen earlier. Here we learned that if we stayed longer a second and larger geyser would eventually erupt. So stay we did and were rewarded with a finer display. The overall eruption seemed to take about half an hour.

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We didn’t have long before our afternoon activity. We grabbed lunch and our swimming clothes before heading out of town to Waitiaki White Water Adventures for our cruise down a local class 5 river. This turned out to be a huge amount of fun. 23 tourists in 4 inflatable rafts with professional guides both in the rafts with us and in kayaks ahead of us went down 13 rapids and 3 waterfalls, the largest being a 7 meter drop. We had to work by paddling forward and backward on instruction and when necessary jamming ourselves down into the raft for the big drops. Towards the end we were allowed in the water to float down one of the rapids which added to the fun. On two occasions we paddled back into the rapids to bury the nose of the raft into the water flooding the front section making us all very wet. This was all funded by Helen’s missed sky dive so we all ended up happy.

Today we’re heading back to Whangarei. We spotted a 3D maze on the way back yesterday which we’re keen on doing today. So it’s off to breakfast and packing up the camping gear. When we get back to the boat I have plenty of pics to upload.

Monteverde Activities

I’m getting a sense that if it were put to the vote, the majority may go in favour of saying we did a lot yesterday – some would say, perhaps, too much.

While our first pickup wasn’t until 10:30, no one really had a decent lie in as the latest we could have breakfast was 7:30am. As we were all up we popped into town in the morning to pick up drinks for later.

At 10:30 we were picked up and taken the Extremo Canopy Tour to participate in one of around five different zip line activities in the area. The activity comprised 14 lines, a rappel from a tall tree and a ‘tarzan swing’ which began more as a freefall than a swing.

Of the 14 zip lines, 4 of them cross the valley giving runs up to half a mile in length. 12 of the runs we took solo but a couple we had to take in pairs. The last of the 4 runs, and in fact the last run of all, was called the superman run where we were suspended horizontally and zipped hundreds of feet above the valley at around 50mph. All very exhilarating.

After lunch we were taken in a mini bus for our waterfall rappelling activity.

Helen bowed out of this one but the rest of us geared up to rappel down 6 separate waterfalls. Most of them were quite small but the 4th was well over 100ft high. It turned out to be quite exhausting but a lot of fun. There was a sneaky trick on the last waterfall as the rope was just a little too short causing us all to fall in the cold mountain water. The following video shows us all descending the 4th waterfall and a demonstration by one of the helpers.

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Having been dropped off back at our cabins we had about 90 mins for our final activity of the day – our night hike. This turned out to be a guided tour through some woods. Jess’s disposition was not helped when the second creature we were shown was a tarantula. We did see a variety of creatures though from leaf cutter ants through to a sloth in a tree.

We were all quite exhausted by the day’s activities and all were asleep shortly after wolfing down pizza.

This morning had an earlier start. We had been advised to get to the Monteverde Reservation at 7am to avoid the lines at the ticket office. This meant breakfast at 6am. We arrived in good time and soon met our guide. Unfortunately, the other four people assigned to our guide arrived much later causing us to wait nearly an hour for the start of our tour.

Being in the clouds, we were subject to mist and rain for our entire tour. Few animals were out but we did get to see a number of rare and interesting birds. Our guide, Eric, was excellent as he told us all about the plants and animals in the cloud forest and all the various natural remedies they were used for. He also had a good sense of humour. For example, when Helen asked if one particular fruit was edible he replied “only if you want to howl like a howler monkey.” We thought it was funny.

This evening we were up for our sunset horse riding trip. John, Helen and Jess all bowed out of this one leaving just Ben and myself going in this one.

We had a really good time. The ride was for two hours. For the most part we followed winding trails through woods and fields. Despite being novices we were allowed at times to pick up the pace over and above just walking everywhere. Noone else joined us on this trek so with the two helpers we made a party of four. It seemed my horse was used to being behind Ben’s horse as every time I tried to pass Ben’s horse took it on itself to block the way. If I left my horse alone it would follow on behind Ben’s. This kept us entertained for some time.

The highlight for us was ending up in a sort of field where we were allowed to gallop the horses up the field three times. The slight downside was at the end of the third run when I fell off the horse. Not quite sure what happened but the saddle ended up being on sideways and I had to pick the best place to take a dive / roll. I ended up with nothing more than a few scratches and found the episode quite funny although it could have been more serious.

The ride ended up at sunset when we saw the sun set off to the right of the Golfo de Nicoya – a spectacular sight.

My body now aches a little too much so it’s off for a hot bath and cold beer.

Canal Transit Day 2

According to our first advisor, our second advisor was due to show up at 6:30am for a 7am departure. Our day 2 advisor, Francisco, arrived at 6:15am requesting an immediate departure. We scrambled, untied from the buoy and were moving well before our normal predeparture checks were performed. These we did on the move as well as completing the boat cleaning Helen had started just before the advisor arrived.

The passage across the lake was very pleasant. I was surprised how quickly we reached the locks to take us down to the Pacific side. Again, we were rafted up to Alcheringa II. Navigator who left after us had caught up and two other sail boats, traveling slower than us, arrived at the same time. We all locked down along with a tourist boat. Between the first and second locks was a small lake which we traversed still rafted together. The down locking was fairly straight forward although some rope burns were acquired by Sam.

We separated leaving the the third dock and headed down the river. Before reaching the first lock I had phoned the office at the Balboa Yacht Club to book a mooring. They told me to call back on Monday. Francisco advised us this was probably due to today being a holiday and that we should try going into the mooring field anyway and trying our luck. I had also tried hailing them on VHF channel 6 to no avail. After breaking from Alcheringa II they moved on ahead. Later we both dropped off our advisors. It transpired we were both heading for the yacht club. I was concerned about getting a slot but headed in to the dock to gain some attention. We heard Alcheringa II call the dock for a pick up for their guests who had been acting as line handlers. We then heard Navigator up the river request a mooring which was granted. I then jumped on the VHF stating we were right outside the office and asked for a mooring and was granted one. Alcheringa II then said they wanted one too and were told there were no more. Not sure of the ethics here but I’m sure Alcheringa II were not pleased. I feel we’d tried well in advance and bar someone not prepared to do any work on a holiday in response to my phone call we would have had our slot confirmed a couple of hours earlier. Sadly, Alcheringa II, who arrived first had to turn away.

The mooring we have been given is right on the outside of the field next to the canal so we do get thrown around a little when the tugs go past. The big ships hardly batter us at all.

We soon found an internet connection and soon had the boat network up and running and four laptops hitting emails, etc. Having done this we went ashore to have a beer in a bar, get some groceries and have a look around. This was when we discovered a major planning disaster. The public holiday was something to do with Martyr’s Day one of the consequences being that alcohol was not served for the entire day. Cokes and water substituted for beers in the bar.

Next came our exploration and search for groceries. We never found a grocery store despite asking for directions from two people. We did pass some sort of religious festival which was severely testing the faithful with rants and monotonous music.

We ended up back on the boat for a couple of hours before heading out for a meal at the local TGI Friday’s. Again no beer, just soft drinks and water but we filled ourselves with western restaurant food not had for weeks. Having brought towels we made use of the yacht clubs showers before returning yet again to the boat.

Sam and Annie later went out again to visit some places they’d picked in the city. We understand from John they returned sometime between 3 & 4. They’re still asleep so we’ll find out what they were up to later.

The reason for picking the Balboa Yacht Club is their 24 hour launch service. This made Annie and Sam’s trip out last night possible without waking us up for a ride to and from the boat and also avoiding exorbitant marina fees. Looks like it’s working.

This morning I’ve made more progress uploading pictures from the time we’ve been off the net but it’s not yet finished. Click on the link for ‘Recently Updated‘ to see the entries where I’ve added pictures. The slide shows can be clicked on to go to the Picasa Website where larger versions of the pictures can be found as well as full screen slide shows.

I’m still catching up on pictures, including those of the transit but for now, here is a truly awesome time lapse movie of our down locking put together by John.

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A little tourism

Feeling good about the completion of the battery projects we decided to do a little tourism in the afternoon. We went ashore and visited the Grenada Museum followed by a climb up to Fort George which overlooks the town and where, on October 19th, 1983 Maurice Bishop, the prime minister, was killed.

The fort is a little run down and is occupied by what appears to be the local police and their training center but we could still walk around. In a few places there were some spectacular views of the bay where Dignity is anchored, the lagoon, the Caranage and the town.

In the evening we had Jim over for dinner who brought margaritas.

Project work is going to run into difficulties soon. We are still awaiting parts for a number of projects. To save money we ordered a lot of stuff online in the US and shipped to Ben’s girlfriends home. Three weeks on, one vendor is still playing up, being very uncommunicative and not sending the goods. We now have this in dispute with the credit card company. We still have a number of things we can do but this will cause difficulties at some point. Not fun.

Near term weather is looking good for the parade tomorrow so we’re looking forward to that. We will probably take the bus up to Gouyave for their Friday Fish Festival. Looking a bit further out it looks like the Caribbean is going to get it’s first hurricane next week. Currently it is called Invest 90 and will probably named Tropical Depression 3 fairly soon. If it makes it to storm strength then it will be name Ana. All the computer forecasts have the storm passing over the northern Caribbean. Weather watching is a several times per day event as one needs to be ready to head south if a storm changes direction.

Leaving you with video from Fort George and remaining pics.

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Pageant & Monday Night Mas

What a long day it was yesterday. We walked to the national stadium in time for the listed 1pm start of pageant. Due to earlier rain everything was delayed and things didn’t kick off until nearly 3pm. Once it started it was a bit confused as I think things were out of sequence to accommodate bands that hadn’t yet arrived. The first five bands were what’s called ‘Short Knee’ bands. It is very traditional but from our perspective, once you’d seen one you’d seen them all. The costumes were all very similar. They would come on stage and all stomp around accompanied by a chant to the same rhythm as all the others. For a while we wondered if they would all be like this.

Next came a sort of in between act where the band was made up of several groups. Each group had a theme. A story about vampires and slayers was narrated while each group came onto the stage. In the end it was just more stomping around but with more variety and some falling over and dying.

Then it went into the fancy costume parade proper. The bands had gone to a great deal of effort with their costumes. Each band was again made up of different sections. The band would have an overall them with each section would have a sub-theme. The sections would have the same costume, sometimes having a single participant with a very elaborate costume. Each section would have a different colour too. At the end they would all come onto the stage together in a riot of colour.

The music they would dance to was the usual thumping carnival music with the usual jumping and cavorting that comes with it.

One of the bands had had a few cruisers help out and join in. Matt and Karen from Where II took part. Matt played the ultimate tourist by bringing his video camera on stage with him.

We left after the last band played but before the results of the competition were announced so we have no idea who won the costume competition. Our favourite was “Journey to the Temple of the Sun” which had an Inca theme. We will get to see all the costumes again this afternoon coupled with the steel bands for the final street parade.

We went back to the boat for a quick bite to eat and to get ready for the night mas. This time we put on our ‘Digicel’ teeshirts and carried our red light sabers to join Jim and several hundred other revelers behind the Digicel truck. As a result of the Pageant delays the night mas start was delayed from 6:30 to 8:30. We turned up just after 7 to enjoy the build up. Part of our Digicel gear included a flask into which we could have as much rum and coke as we wanted poured in throughout the night.

Once the procession started we made our way very slowly around the lagoon and into the Caranage. We danced along with all the rest and both of us from time to time were ‘ground’ by strangers. I’m not sure of the right term for this but it reminds me very much of what Bonobos get up to and it’s very groinal. We enjoyed ourselves while adrenalin kept the fatigue at bay. Around midnight Helen began to fade so we left Jim to the crowd and made our back to the boat falling asleep instantly.

Despite the long day and lots of rum last night we’re in surprisingly good form this morning and looking forward to the final procession this afternoon when everything comes together. Given the experience so far this will hardly fail to please.

The one downside of all of yesterday was to learn that one of the other cruising boats anchored near us was burgled last night while they were ashore. Just shows that there are thorns in this bed of roses in paradise and we do need to take care.

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