Uxmal – Mayan Magic

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Gazing out over what remains of a once great civilization, so many questions arise.

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Pyramid of the Soothsayer

Many of the answers remain a mystery today particularly what transpired to cause such a rapid and dramatic decline to this once powerful civilization?

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Founded  around 700 AD the  Mayan center of Uxmal was the home of  approx. 25,000 people. It is said to be the most majestic of all the Mayan  cities. There is much Mayan mythology about the city once being ruled by Dwarfs.

I found it interesting that this center was built where there was no cenote for water as is the case with other site.

 

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Getting up is the easy part.

We were extremely impressed at how well preserved and presented this UNESCO  location is and  our 3 hour walk about was very enlightening.

More Information

 

Getting There:

Uxmal is 65 KMS south of Merida and there are many tours offered stopping here and the other sites on the Puuc Trail.

Johanne and I chose to take the local bus from downtown Merida- it takes about 1.5 hrs. and was  just a few dollars one way. There is also a local bus tour on Sundays

There is also very comfortable  accommodations and restaurants just as you enter the site. Maybe stay a few days and experience this area by moonlight.

 

Make sure you put the ruins at Uxmal on you “Must Do List”.

joyful travellers

La Vida en la Ometepe, Nicaragua

As house sitters we have the opportunity to immerse ourselves in a variety of local environments.

I have heard the term “slow travel” used, it offers a “feel” for the place that a few nights in a hotel does not.

Currently we are on Ometepe Island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua. We have tried to capture what everyday life looks like in photos:

dsc03139Living in the shadow of 2 volcanoes accentuates the temporal aspect of life.

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Ruta De Evacuation

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 Well at least you will have time to enjoy the shade:

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Wash Day

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Puppies Always Bring on a Smile

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Mystical Surroundings

dsc03061Enjoy Every Moment

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Contact us if we can House/Pet Sit for you.

the joyful travellers

 

Our Cuban Honeymoom

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Johanne and I were very thrilled to have the opportunity to travel to Cuba in October to celebrate our wedding. It was a little break between our  steady House Sitting assignments.

I have always had a lot of questions and curiosities about the island and Johanne was eager to explore with me.

When you start contemplating Havana, people will say “it is noisy, dilapidated and the air pollution is bad”.

Yes it can be all of that but what we also discovered was a vibrant city full of magic, colour and cultural surprises.

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Even Johanne who is adverse to the  crowds of big cities, thoroughly enjoyed our meanderings up side streets and down wide shady boulevards.

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We were told to be prepared for a country economically on it knees after 57 years of a crippling US blockade however we did not see that at all.

The quality of life appeared to be higher than most other Latin America countries, and the expected shortages were not obvious to us.

dsc02900Many  pre-revolution buildings are crumbling, at the same time the government is doing their best to restore what they can.

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Cubans are very resourceful and are quite accustomed to making due with what is available.

 

We were warmly welcomed and everyone was so polite.

click on A Day in The Life Here

And then there are the cars:

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See more Yank Tanks Here

Most obvious to us after just one week was:

-how  squeaky clean the streets are with virtually no litter in the cities or on the beaches. (Being poor is not an excuse for throwing trash everywhere).

-the level of education of the population with 99.8% literacy the 10th highest globally

-the family unit seems to be well in tact with the average family having just 1.4 children

 

We also to a side trip to Varardero which makes for a wonderful beach vacation.

So after just one week I would say a few of our questions were answered but many more are yet to be answered.agreatcar

Put Cuba on your list!!

the joyful travellers

 

 

6 Proven Tips for Travelling Light

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Johanne and I have learned from experience that travelling light makes a adventure much easier to enjoy so we wanted to share some of the tips we have learned along the way. Based on what we see other people hauling around we are usually among the lighter travellers.

  1. Luggage verses Backpack. This is easy, if you are going by airport shuttle to the all-inclusive your big luggage with the wheels will serve you well. If however you plan on touring cities and towns your wheels that rolled so smooth at the airport will leave you stranded at the curb.

Our backpack of choice is the Supercontinental from Mountain Equipment Co-op. Mine is the 65 liter model and Johanne’s is the 45 liter. Besides being a very comfortable backpack, the straps can be tucked away making it a very respectable carry case that will not get caught in the airport carousel.

The 45 liter version is actually regulation carry on and the 65 liter comes with a small day pack which we find very handy for tootling around.

2. Clothes. We are very selective about what we are prepared to carry and less is always more. Quick dry is a must and we look for quality well wearing tops and shorts. A small vest and a good quality compact rain jacket come along just in case. To get the most out of the limited space, roll your clothes up and use rubber bands. We wear a pair of long pants and a long sleeve shirt on the plane. “Remember to be respectful of local customs, in many countries you are judged by how you dress, so tidy up as best you can”. 

Don’t forget to coordinate (OK I confess here, since retiring my eye for fashion has become slightly murky).

3. Foot Wear. Forget the heals, comfort and quality are the keys. Look for lightweight, comfortable walking shoes that dress up fine plus a pair of sport sandals (Doug loves his Tivas, as the are closed toed, water-resistant and durable). A cheap pair of crocs can be very versatile for beach and everyday use. If you have more than one pair on your feet and two in your pack, time to rethink.

4. Valuables. We love our thief proof fanny pack from PACSAFE.  We also bought a wire combination lock and use it to secure the fanny pack to something solid in our hotel room. This really puts us at ease.DSC01774

Mom always said “keep a little extra money tucked in your shoes”, and once again mom was right!

We do spread our cards and cash around so all would be not lost with one quick snatch. We also carry in my pocket a small change purse with our day money in it. We affectionately refer to it as our “mug money” .

The main page of our passports have been photocopied and laminated for carrying during the day and the passports stay locked up at the hotel. A money belt is also highly recommended, leave the purse at home.

5. Toiletries. We love these mesh bags inexpensive and very functional. Johannes is much bigger than mine! There stuff in there that I would not know how to use.DSC01775

6. The Little Things

  • Clothes pins and a piece of line
  • Pocket size camera, we love our little Sony, it is quick, easy and most importantly inconspicuous
  • An e reader or tablet, leave the laptop at home, life goes on (trust me)
  • First aid kit with scissors, nail clippers, etc.
  • Please take a refillable water bottle, with backpack clip. There is already far too much plastic being thrown away
  • A collection of zap straps, you just never know
  • Shopping bags that fold into a ball, again too much plastic garbage!
  • Packable hats
  • Assorted ziploc bags for bar soap and things that may leak
  • Small LED flashlights
  • Our one luxury is our Scrabble board and a deck of cards

If we missed something please let us know, so that we can add it to our list.

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Happy Trails from the joyful travellers.

Preferred Places to Stay in Nicaragua

Typically Johanne and I are just off the beaten path, so you will not find any all inclusive in our list of places to stay. We are happy when we find quiet, clean, safe and convenient. We appreciate the friendly, warm and helpful hosts and have had wonderful experiences at the following places:

P.S. We draw the line at a shared bath.

 

Rates Between $25 and $65

 

Little Corn Island- Casa Iguana: Amazing Location, good value and a very nice place for breakfast with Azul view. Our little casita hung right on the cliff and we slept to the sounds of the Caribbean surf.

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Corn Island-Paraiso: Very relaxing property operated by young caring Dutch family. We enjoyed our time here very much. Just off the beach.

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Leon-Hostel Mariposa: A delightful retreat from the bustle that is Leon. Short cab ride to town. A lovely French couple recently bought this place and are doing a great job of providing an enjoyable experience.  The French cooking is a bonus.

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La Boquita – MYRINaMAR B&B: right on the cliff with a spectacular sunset Pacific view sits this lovely retreat. Owned by two wonderful women who know about hospitality.  We had the great fortune of celebrating New Years Eve 2015 there and were treated royally. Just 20 minutes from Diriamba on a very good road.

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Granada-Casa San Fransico: Walk to everything in town, very peaceful and relaxing atmosphere. Enjoy the mini pool, a yummy breakfast and check out the city view from the  roof top terrace. The  attached restaurant has great tapas.  The owners Terry and her sister Nancy are very kind and helpful. Feels like coming home!

 

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Laguna  De Apoyo- Laguna Beach Resort: very nice well maintained property with small lake front access. Water toys included and the lake is so soothing. We spent hours playing in the soothing water.

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San Juan Del Sur Park Avenue Villa, the pool was essential in this hot town. The rooms are clean and the hospitality comes with a smile. A few blocks to the beach and town.  We enjoyed the happy hour views from the breezy terrace.

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Playa Hermosa – Playa Hermosa Eco Lodge is an easy  surfer shuttle from SJDS, a very special place to enjoy the stellar beach.  We stayed here three nights and loved it. (no other place to eat, but the food was fine). Muy tranquilo!

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Popoyo -Hotel Popoyo: what luxury, we  greatly appreciated the pool and the property. Good value. Wonderful poolside restaurant and comfie beds.

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Managua- Hostal Monte Christi:  this is where we start when arriving after a long flight, airport picks arranged. “Hola” to Calvin and Molly very gracious hosts. See also: ( A Helpful  Connection in Managua).

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Hacienda Merida

Ometepe Island-Hacienda Merida: A bit out of the way  down a dusty road but this is a surprise well worth the journey. Kind caring people, great meals and good value. (see also Escuela Billingue de Ometepe).

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Accommodation, Ometepe Island

Ometepe , Moyogalapa –  Hospedaje Soma

Here is a very nice little resort about a fifteen minute walk from the  the ferry dock. It is run by a flock of Canadians and is quiet, clean and very friendly.   Check them out on trip adviser (always outstanding reviews).

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Drop us a line if you have any questions about these and other places that we might know of.

 

Spectacular Beaches

Johanne and I know for a fact that we are beach people. Being Card Carrying Aquarians we need regular douses of sun and surf. A day ocean side is very well spent playing in and out of the water like kids on summer break.

 

Here are a few of our favourite spots:

 

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If you are looking for deserted  that “NO OTHER FOOT PRINTS” experience, then here is how it find it.

Make your way to Las Penitas south of Poneloya and rent a kayaka. Paddle across the mouth of the laguna and come ashore at  Reserva Natural Isla Juan Venado. Be prepared to be overwhelmed by the vastness  and undisturbed beauty. (pack a lunch because you may not want to leave).

 

The Corn Islands

The Corn Islands are a special place and well worth the effort to get here. Think small Caribbean Beaches with beautiful colours and warm soothing waters.

 

Playa Hermosa

Take the surfer shuttle from San Juan Del Sur, Hermosa is about 20 minutes South. We found this to be a place worth staying a few days.

 

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Ecuador has some of the most breathtakingly magnificent beaches we have ever seen anywhere. Of course only if you are into endless miles of uninterrupted sand with the Pacific Ocean doing it’s thing and offering a joyful playground.

 

 

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Nude Beach – Somewhere North of Montanita

 

 

 

 

We would love to hear about your favourite beaches, drop us a line.

The Weather Here

The day before yesterday arrived completely becalmed here on the rim,  the air was still and the sun spilled champagne into  the distant haze.

Weather Here

Another spectacular day was unfolding but this one somehow felt different. By the time coffee was finished, the temperature was headed for 30 degrees and beyond, wind velocity was ZERO. The days are usually so comfortable here 2,000 ft. above the lake because of the reliable breeze that fills in and cools the skin.  There would be no breeze today so hammock yoga became the order of the day.

To achieve bliss through hammock yoga a practitioner needs only a well slung hammock, a great view, a good book and a  tall, cool mango smoothie. It is  time very well invested indeed.DSC01778

We survived the  steamy windless day intact to be  entertained by the nightly electrical storms  erupting across the sky.

Yesterday morning openned with the same pattern but we had a plan.  We packed a day bag and made our way down to Paradiso. (Paradiso or paradise is a small backpacker resort with a private beach  and restaurant right on the lake) .

We wound our way through their tropical garden and established ourselves in comfy chairs just  footsteps  from water’s edge. Within seconds we were soothing in the glorious laguna. The shore of the lake is ringed with soft and inviting sand yet within 12 steps it drops off into the aqua abyss.  Imagine yourself free floating in space with a clear blue sky immersed in crystal jade water.

Floating in the laguna is one of our favourite past times and in one day we can easily pass many hours in the water just relaxing and soaking it up.Nicaragua 2016 243

As the afternoon sun found its way across the crater we slowly pulled ourselves away from paradise, “maybe there will be wind up on top”? I exclaimed. We dried off and made our way home.

A beautiful dinner was prepared and the dishes done, a sudden gust forms “maybe there will be wind”?

We had just enough time to get the bathing suits of the line when the banana trees  began bending in the storm. Tropical storms here are regular occurrence but this was exceptional.  An eerie cloud engulfed  the crater and we were now  in its  midst, the temperature dropped like a rock.  Lightening  back lit the scene as the winds hollowed and dogs huddled nearby.

I had never seen lightening that fractures and branches off hitting the earth in a dozen places at once. Massive bolts can even travel sideways across the night crashing into each other. Pure sci fi.

Next the thunder came tumbling up. It seemed to travel coast to coast from the Atlantic, over the jungle all the way to the Pacific , the spectacle  was  now complete and things slowly  began  to calm down.

From our comfy bed we could hear the gentle rains as we drifted in the cool soothing breeze.

 

From The hammock

There is stillness in the crater this morning so the hammocks are slung just in case.

from joyful travellers

 

Nicaragua – The Soundtrack

This is a rather noisy place, full of rich sounds that are the inspiration for the latest record album of my imagination. Lay back close your eyes and we will give it a spin on the old turntable:

 

Nicaragua – The Soundtrack

 

The Local Bus – Several times a day it trumpets its arrival and departure with much fanfare and commotion. Only a rookie would miss the bus to town, just listen up and you will know when it is about to depart. Hop on and grab a seat if you can.

Canines- Five dogs reside on this property and their audio contribution only adds modestly to the overall neigbourbood canine chaos that can erupt at any time.

Mangos on Metal Roof- The Timpani arbitrarily booms whenever there is a gust of wind. Soon the mangoes will be ripe and will go directly to the breakfast smoothie.

The Beloved Wind- Whispering   through the bamboo and tall grass it announces the arrival of soothing relief from the heat of the day.

Exotic Birds- An intricate harmony that adds layers rich colours and texture to the song.

Frogs in Pila*- This is almost impossible to define, try to imagine techno ducks from Mars in an echo chamber. They preform daily between 5 and 11 PM in the rainy season. *Pila  a large concrete structure where rain water is collected for your shower.

The Magnificent Monkeys –From the volume of their deep guttural barks one would expect to see gargantuan apes hovering in the trees. Their mating calls echo around the crater randomly throughout the day frightening tourist and children alike. (When finally sighted they are not much bigger than a mature Canadian squirrel).

Mother and Baby

Mother and Baby

Cicadas and other Bugs- A cacophony of crackles, chirps and whistles that joyfully fill  the spaces in between. It makes you contemplate what is really out there under that cover.

Rolling Thunder Review– Off in the distance you can hear the rumble as they barrel roll up through the countryside to rattle your eardrums and shake your foundation. WHO fans insert: “We Won’t Get Fooled  Again”.

Silence- Those welcomed moments of eerie stillness that are interrupted only by the  subtle swaying of retirement hammock.From The hammock

I hope that you have enjoyed this musical adventure in Nicaragua.