"" Writer's Wanderings: July 2017

Monday, July 31, 2017

Nude Beaches

Sooner or later as you travel the world you are going to encounter a nude beach either accidentally or on purpose. We've done both--with our clothes on.

Our first experience was in the Caribbean. On one of our first Caribbean cruises when we were still taking ship's excursions we made a short stop at Orient Beach in St. Martin on the French side of the island. We had no idea what to expect and were afraid we would be totally embarrassed by the sights we might see. Now, I wasn't quite so naive. After all, I'd had to stare at nudes in drawing and painting classes in college for my art degree. But this was a totally different situation.

We held hands and ventured out onto the beach only to discover that hundreds of other cruisers from several ships in port were doing the same thing and also fully clothed. The only couple we saw strolling the beach sans clothes or bathing suit were two people who really should have kept their clothes on. We've laughed about that often.

In Australia we've happened upon several places where nude bathing or topless bathing surprised us. None of it was done as an exhibition as seemed the case on the Orient Beach but discretion was more the rule. My most shocking encounter though (because I really wasn't expecting it) was on a beach with very few people. I think it was on Magnetic Island but I'm not sure now.

We were exploring with our son and enjoying the butterflies and other critters we happened on when we found a small beach and decided to rest a while and enjoy the water and sun. There was a family there and I didn't pay much attention but soon noticed a man emerging from the water with a snorkel mask in hand. At the time there was a TV commercial back home for a perfume fragrance that had a man slowly emerge from a pool and greet a woman at the other end of it. As this man was coming ashore his graceful stride reminded me of that commercial and I watched. The water reached his waist, then dipped below the waist. I'm thinking small Speedo--very small, but as the water level dipped more I realized NO Speedo! I looked away quickly. After all this wasn't drawing class.

If you find yourself in such a situation my only recommendation is don't gawk, point or giggle and for heaven's sake, don't take a selfie!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Are You A Skilled Traveler?

Nowadays there are lists for everything. I'm a list person when it comes to getting things done but I also enjoy measuring myself against some of the lists that get published like the latest I found at SmartTravel: 10 Essential Skills Every Traveler Should Have. I got better than 50 percent (as long as I travel with Bob).

Usually I try to figure out the basic nice words for a country we are visiting, like yes, no, thank you, hello. If I learn numbers it's usually just three. Any more than that and I will be overspending in the store or market.

I fail on learning to drive a stick shift. I've tried at three different times in my life and still cannot master it. I could do it in an emergency but the car would be worthless once I arrived. That's where my husband comes in. He can do the driving--and change the flat tire.

My map skills were learned at a young age thank goodness. In today's world I fear that will be lost with all the reliance on GPS. Sometimes you find yourself in places where GPS is just not enough.

We are never so far from a place for help if we needed serious first aid. Anything that requires a bandaid will be covered although even if I did know what to do to stop bleeding, I'd probably pass out before I could be of help. I've never been good with the sight of blood.

Why deboning a fish is on the list is a mystery. If the fish is cooked well enough the meat should just easily pick off the bone. I can however filet a fish and then cook it--again, learned at a young age from a father who was an avid fisherman.

Currency conversions are covered with the app on my phone and talking to strangers is usually easy enough but the last one on the list is one that I just recently figured out--the squat toilet. The next time I feel we might be in danger of facing that I will take a funnel and maybe attach a small hose. At my age the squat is just not possible.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

What Happens To That Leftover Soap In The Hotel?

What do you do with the unused amenities in that hotel bathroom when you leave? Do you take them with you? Sometimes I do. If we've only used a little of the shampoo and conditioner or the lotion, I take them with me especially if they are a nice brand that works well. I hate waste.

The bar of unused soap however is always left behind. I just can't bring myself to tuck a wet soft bar of used soap into my suitcase--even in a plastic bag. So, what happens to those amenities that are left behind? Having an inquiring mind and a search engine I looked it up.

Who knew there were actually organizations that are in the business of recycling those products for the benefit of those who are in need? I ran across several organizations in different parts of the world. In New Zealand and Australia the organization is called Soap Aid. Then there is the Global Soap Project which has joined forces with Orlando based Clean The World. Many of the larger hotel chains are on board with the project even though Clean The World charges fifty cents a room to recycle the soaps. Another, the Eco Soap Bank, has a similar program and sends the recycled soap to remote regions of developing countries.

The soaps and other amenities are sanitized repackaged and then sent to other areas of the country and world for distribution to those in need whether it be just a poor area or an area hit with a disaster where people have lost homes or are displaced for a time.

Before I pack up those half used amenities from now on I'll be asking if the hotel recycles. I don't understand why they don't let the guests know on one of those little cards. They keep telling me to hang up my towels. Why not tell me if they recycle the leftover amenities?

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Device-Free Vacation Challenge

How many devices do you travel with? Myself, I carry a Surface computer, a Kindle and an iPhone. Over the years my laptop has gotten smaller to try to lighten the load in my backpack. Bob carries with him an iPad, a Kindle and an iPhone. Between us that is six devices that require recharging throughout our travel. Too many?

I've always carried the laptop/tablet computer so that I can post on my blog or, should the inspiration arise, do some writing. The Kindle takes the place of six or seven books that I might read on our trip depending upon the length of flights, waits in the airport or just down time and relaxing. Not unreasonable, is it?

Now comes the possibility that travel restrictions may change at any time when we are traveling and not allow for us to carry the Surface computer with my carry on. There is no way I would ever pack it in checked luggage for so many obvious reasons--theft, damage, loss, etc. For that reason, I will be traveling without my computer when we travel to Europe this fall. Better safe than sorry. I will rely on my phone for my email. If I really was brave, I'd also leave the Kindle at home and just rely on the Kindle app on my phone as well but that's a pretty small screen to read from. [It appears that the problem is soon to be solved with updated security scanners in the European airports.]

Then again if we really wanted to live on the edge, we'd leave all the devices at home and unplug from the electronic world to see the real world. But alas, a child who still needs us needs to be able to call even if it is in the middle of the night wherever we are. And then there was that time that our house watcher called to say the furnace went out in the middle of a week of subzero temps while we were half way around the world and we needed to make arrangements for replacement. Sometimes it does pay to stay in touch.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Free? Did Someone Say Free?

My husband, Bob, always reminded the kids that nothing in life is free. And that smacks true most of the time. There are however, some places you can visit for free admission. Granted it may take a little money to get to them and they are museums but if you like that sort of thing or it's a rainy day, that could be just the best thing in town.

A SmarterTravel article listed some free museums starting with the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. We used to live near DC and visited often. There are some 19 buildings that make up the museum and the major ones all surround the Mall. My favorites were the Air and Space Museum, American History (where Dorothy's red slippers are), Art Museum and of course the National Zoo. It's been years since we've visited and I'm sure there is a lot that has changed but it is still free admission.

On a rainy day in Wellington, New Zealand, we chose to visit the Te Papa Tongarewa Museum and thoroughly enjoyed it. I normally would not chose to visit a museum but rather do outdoor activities and sight seeing but this was delightful. There was quite a variety of subjects from history to marine life which included a huge preserved squid reminiscent of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.

It's always a good idea to check out a place you are planning to visit for alternative activities if weather is not friendly. They only take brochure pictures when the sun is shining.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Traveling To Ancient Rome

This week we are traveling to ancient Rome by way of our Vacation Bible School at church. There is a marketplace where the "family groups" will learn to write with "octopus ink", make laurel wreaths, how to dress in a toga, metal working, carpentry, and several other crafts. The Apostle Paul will be there with stories to tell and there will be lots of joyful noises as the kids learn new songs. It is a week of fun and a busy one at that for all of us who are involved. And of course some wonderful snacks with a story time as well.

This year I'm going to take the rest of the week off from posting so that I can enjoy our trip to ancient Rome. I'll be up and running again on Monday!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Through Bob's Lens - Diving Grand Cayman

These were from my husband's camera during our dive trip to Grand Cayman.

Flamingo tongue snail. The snail is actually covering its shell and will retract to the inside when threatened.

Spotted eel.

Colorful barrel sponge.

Their blue eyes are sparkly.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A 3-Tank Safari

Our favorite dive operation, Ocean Frontiers in Grand Cayman, features several very creative dive experiences. One of them is called a 3-tank safari. It is basically a whole day's adventure and we thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.

The adventure began just before 9AM. The idea for this expedition was to go further than the usual dive sites on a normal dive morning or afternoon. We headed to the north end. A little over an hour later we tied up to a mooring buoy and got ready to jump in.

There was not the usual map drawing to show the dive site. The dive masters don't dive these sites very often so we were more or less all exploring it together for the first time. The direction for the reef wall was pointed out and the shallows area pointed out. It forced us to really look at the differences in the color of the water to see where the reef and the sandy areas were.

Our dive plan for the three of us was to jump in and head for the wall and then turn and come back. Straight lines are not always straight when you get below water but we managed to make it to the wall and back to the boat enjoying the scenery and the marine life along the way.

The second morning dive was in a shallower area (40-60 feet deep) and was nearer the area where Sting Ray City is. We were eager to see if we would run into any rays in the sandy areas.

Sure enough we saw a large sting ray as well as several other critters of interest including one I don't remember seeing before--a sand diver. It looked a little like a scorpion fish but was long and thin instead of looking like a rock.

We tied up at a marina and took off the empty tanks. Someone from the dive shop had brought fresh tanks for the third dive and while we ate lunch the staff changed out the tanks and set our gear up again. Lunch was sandwiches, sodas, fruit, chips and watermelon. We had purchased ours through the dive shop because it was our last day and I didn't want to have to buy food we might not use up.

Because our dives had been so excellent before lunch we opted to stay up north for the third dive rather than motor halfway home. It would mean a long ride home but it was truly worth it. We managed to see three spotted eagle rays--one pair and then a single. They look like they are flying through the water like giant birds. Then there was a large crab, a big hermit crab in an old conch shell, a lobster and lots of little cleaner shrimp along with some large lionfish.

We made it back to the dive shop in the late afternoon. It had been a great day, sadly our last for this year but what a way to end our dive trip.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Turtle Kisses

Usually the marine life gives you wide berth when you are diving but there are occasions when they become as curious about you as you are of them. On several of our dives this year we saw a turtle. This particular dive we saw a little guy. As we were swimming along, He seemed to be headed for the surface but started toward us.

Oh my gosh, I thought, this guy is going to give us an up close look before he veers off and heads up. Turtles have lungs and so they must surface periodically to breathe. They can spend a long time underwater. Hours to days depending upon the type of turtle and whether it is feeding or sleeping or hibernating.

This little guy was in no hurry to get to the top. He was more interested in Bob. We weren't sure why unless he thought the camera in his hand was a food offering. Later, when we watched the video, we thought perhaps the sound that Bob's regulator was making attracted him. (The diaphragm or o-ring in his regulator wasn't lubricated properly when we had our equipment serviced. It's happened before and doesn't affect your breathing but does create the irritating whistle.)

The turtle just kept coming until I thought it was going to kiss Bob. He started backing up and then the turtle must have remembered he was on his way to the surface and he headed on up to catch his breath. We were still trying to catch ours after a wonderful encounter and something to remember for years to come.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Don't Pack Bandaids, Pack This

On our first dive day we were on the new boat that Ocean Frontiers now has. Super nice but it wasn't quite decked out all the way. There was no grab bar under the swim deck to hang on to in order to take off swim fins before ascending the ladder. (The drill for you non-divers is usually to hang onto the boat, take off the swim fins and pass them up to a dive master, then pull yourself over to the ladder and climb up.) Without the grab bar we were having to hold onto the deck which wasn't bad on the first dive but on the second the waves were bouncing the boat more as I was holding on. I got one fin off and carefully changed hands to get the other fin. In doing so I was holding on to a different spot. I felt the sharp bump in the underside of the deck but before I could readjust my hand the boat surged up and my thumb slid over the sharp spot.

It didn't hurt but I was sure it had cut and I was dripping red stuff as I climbed up the ladder. One of the dive masters quickly wrapped a tissue around it and I continued on to my seat. It wasn't a really bad cut but considering where it was, I figured it was going to be a nuisance as I tried to use my thumb for getting equipment on and off.

As luck would have it, I always pack a small bottle of New Skin in my med kit. A few years ago another diver had recommended it. We have bandages too but bandaids do not stay stuck when you are in the water any amount of time--even if they are the "waterproof" kind. Wrapping the wound in duct tape is another option but I wanted more flexibility than duct tape would give. When we got to the condo, I immediately brushed the New Skin over the wound. It stings hard (the antiseptic) but dries fast. I did a couple of coats and it was amazing how well it worked. It covered the wound with a semi-clear shield that looks a bit like super glue.

I've used the New Skin before but never for a cut like this. I can safely attest to its durability. The next day of diving I added another coat and it stayed on protecting the wound through the whole morning of diving. I did have to add a coat now and then as it did begin to wear away but eventually the wound looked good and clean and healing quickly. I wore the New Skin just to be sure the wound would not get soft and reopen but in a few days it was nearly healed.

So, if you are heading to the beach or the pool or diving, you might want to look for New Skin if you have a small wound to take care of. It works so much better than trying to keep a bandaid on. Of course there's always the duct tape. It does come in patterns and colors now to match your beachwear.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

"Marine Cha-ching"

One of the exciting things about scuba diving is that you never know what you are going to find. It is a landscape and community that is constantly changing. I often laugh when someone comes back from a dive and says they didn't see anything. There is always something to see. It just may not be what you were looking for. My general comment is that the only reason you didn't see anything was because of all the fish in the way.

Like anything else you sometimes don't notice the obvious. In the Caymans there are tons of fish all brightly colored or patterned and all sizes. They even have different personalities. The groupers always look grumpy, the tarpons nonchalant, the parrot fish forever happy-go-lucky and that's just a few to mention among the thousands of others.

On a few of our dives we saw some new things that we hadn't seen before. Our grandson pointed out to me a disk sticking out of the sandy bottom in one place. When I waved my hand over the top of it to scatter the sand, we discovered the first sand dollar I'd ever seen when diving. I've seen lots on shore but never under the water and never one this size. It had to be at least 8 inches in diameter and that's adjusting for the fact that everything looks larger underwater.

When we bragged about our find, the dive master wanted to know if it was alive or dead. We looked at each other and shrugged. Were there little tentacles sticking out? he asked. Nope and it was very white in color. Dead, he said. We didn't care. It was still a great find.

Later we would see a nurse shark swimming freely. Usually they are snugly tucked in under a rock or ledge. I wondered if he'd been disturbed by the divers in the area.

Of course marine life also includes the corals, sea fans, sponges and tons of other little creatures that are found in the crooks and crevices--like an arrowhead crab that gets its name from its arrow shaped body and actually looks like a daddy-long-legs spider. It was hiding in a little spot between some rocks.

But the sand dollar was unusual. Something that can't be spent but can certainly be saved in the memory banks forever.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

More Sharks! And A Ray

Surely, I thought as we began our second day of diving, there will not be any sharks today. We rarely see one in a week of diving and we'd already had a close encounter. So when the dive master said there were three or four that hung out at this morning's first dive site I just figured he was whetting everyone's appetite for the dive ahead.

Before we could even set out to start our exploring of Pat's Wall, we had our first encounter. It was as if the shark were greeting us. It swam close by and I figured that was that. But no. The shark came back--not once but numerous times making a wide circle under the dive boat. I don't recall ever having one come that close to us. Then all of a sudden there were two.

I have to admit my heart rate was up a bit. As much as I could I told myself not to panic but as the sharks passed within 10-15 feet of us (maybe closer, I'm trying not to exaggerate), I was feeling a bit uncertain. Sharks don't normally get friendly with divers. They are usually nonchalant and eager to get out of our sight. I began to wonder if they were expecting a handout. Was someone feeding them?

We moved on to the rest of our dive but when we returned the one shark was still there and still making a wide circle beneath us as we paused for our safety stop at 20 feet. Once on board, I asked the dive master if someone had been feeding the sharks because their nearness and circling seemed to me to be the behavior of a fish that was waiting to be fed. Apparently there was some lion fishing done in the area at one time and he admitted that there may have been a couple of people who had let the shark have the lion fish. (The lion fish are an invasive species introduced into the Caribbean and efforts have been made to eliminate them by spear fishing. They have no other predator.) He assured me that the lion fishing had stopped in that area. Did anyone tell the sharks?

Our second dive was in shallower waters and had some large sandy areas. We were rewarded with the antics of a ray that had a large fish on top of it. I couldn't be sure if it was a cleaner fish or if it was getting some bits of uneaten food from the ray.

All in all it had been quite a morning. What next?

Monday, July 03, 2017

Shark! Up Close And Just Personal Enough

The first day of a dive trip is always a little anxiety producing. Getting on the dive boat and getting your gear set up for the first time in a year all while you are still acclimating to heat and humidity is tiring. Then comes that first jump in the water, equalizing the pressure in your ears and checking to be sure that the equipment you just had serviced is all in working order before you get too far from the boat. It takes a few moments but then you begin to relax, find your buoyancy in the water and begin your exploration.

So we began the first dive of our trip at Lighthouse Wall. One of the things we like so much about diving the East End of Grand Cayman is the reef wall that extends all along the coast. It makes navigation easy. Jump in. Head for the top of the wall. Drop down to 60-80 feet. Follow the wall in one direction for about 15 minutes and come up on top of the wall and turn back to the boat for the rest of your dive.

We followed the routine and had planned on turning left at the wall's edge but when we saw a whole group of divers already there, we decided to go right. Our decision brought us around a pinnacle jutting out into the deep and practically face to face with a Caribbean grey shark. I think it was a female since she looked pretty big. Normally the shark will turn and swim the other way but she was about 20 below us and just kept lazily swimming below us along the wall. We turned (the boys had their cameras going) and followed a bit. It didn't seem to bother her at all. In the past the shark usually flicks its tail and takes off for the deep. This one seemed to enjoy being photographed.

Not wanting to aggravate her, we turned and continued along the wall being thankful that we'd had this extraordinary encounter. She wasn't done with all the divers though. As we waited at our rest stop before exiting the water to the boat, she did a loop below us allowing anyone who hadn't seen her the first time to get a good look. Then she disappeared into the deep.

Needless to say since we are diving with our nearly sixteen year old grandson, his day was made and we still had another dive to do before the morning would be over. Some eels and lots of fish as well as huge sea fans and sponges were wonderful to see but the shark--well, wasn't it just shark week on TV? This was better.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...