The Lunch Bell Rings

Today we watch a couple of the sea’s creatures having lunch. We travel along with our eye on the reef and out into the blue. The reef part is pretty much any dive but the out into the blue part is watching for a turtle or two and quite possibly a tiger shark. It is tiger shark season here and they are about. We don’t see either.

But, on our way back into the shallows on the sandy bottom is one big conch. It is the size of a soccer ball. Seems to be eyeing up an urchin, don’t know the specific name but we call it a pincushion. The chase is on and when the shell catches up to the urchin the creature inside the shell lifts its house 6 or 8″ off the sand and drops it very quickly on top of the pincushion. Excuse me while I dine in private.


Conch advancing on lunch

Shortly after that I spot a very large zebra eel lying under a rock. The dive master stirs up an spiny urchin that is sitting very near. The eel leaps, leaps as best a sinuous beast can, and without any regard for the spines, clamps its jaws around urchin. Two or three more attacks and the spiny black creature is cracked in half like a walnut. The eel takes half and receeds into hiding under the shelf. It seems the Hawaiian sea folks like to eat without an audience.

Zebra Eel having lunch

Zebra Eel having lunch

Zebra Eel having lunch

Every dive is different in the day a good portion of the reef animals are in rest mode and don’t hunt at all. Today we witness a couple of those nocturnal beasts taking advantage of a daylight opportunity.

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First Dives

Normally Murray and I get a touch of the nerves on our first dive of a trip. Not this time. Maybe it is because we dove in Dominica only two months ago. B, however, had nerves enough for everyone as she hasn’t dove in the ocean for two years. But we all made it and it was great, as Kona always is.

I recently read a short article about the fact that very few people experience the world under the waves. We are so lucky to be able to see octopi, sleeping sharks, cleaner fish doing their life’s work for another much larger fish, dragon moray and viper moray ( two very unusual eels) and fish indigenous to Hawaii’s waters.

Our first day of diving is done, we will now get into a routine of sleep, eat, dive, repeat and enjoy the underwater world.

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Made it. Not even a bad trip. It started a bit weird. Debbie got singled out for a ‘special’ run through the security check. They make her take out all of her electronics, and put them separately into the xray bins, when the bins appeared on the other side they pulled aside all her bags and swabbed them, and then patted her down. Nothing comes of it so it is only a short delay and we had plenty of time anyway.

The lay over in Seattle is fairly long but the plane is again on time and we are in the air by noon. The next hour is spent trying to get the Alaska Air app to connect so B and Debbie could watch movies. Don’t even know what we did to make the iPad respond but in the end the connection is made and movies are watched.

It is not often travel plans are made and they pan out to the letter but today was one of those days. Off the plane. On time. Pick up a rental car. In the blink of an eye. Stop at the dive shop. Everything as we expected. Groceries. Done. Find the condo. Too slick.

Tomorrow early at the dock.

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Carry On Packing Re-evaluation

When we got back from Dominica, I  mentioned that we were going to re-evaluate our packing as our rollie bags, with dive gear, were getting too heavy. As I unpacked my bag, I made a list of items to look at. We are almost packed for our scuba dive trip to Kona and here is what we did to lightened our load. Now, keep in mind we are reducing by ounces, not pounds!

Dive Logs: Instead of taking the small binders that are our dive logs, we are only taking the correct number of pages for the number of dives we are doing. They are contained in a ziploc bag.

First Aid Kit and Liquids Bags: Kona is not a third world country, so there is a Safeway, Costco and Walmart. We can buy any bandaids or first aid items we may need. Our first aid kit is reduced to a few bandaids, alcohol wipes, laxative, Tylenol, Penicillin, Cipro and Canesten, eye drops, Otravin, Hydrocortisone Cream, and Polysporin.  Stuff we may need a prescription for, even in the USA. This sounds like many items, but the first aid kit is much smaller than on previous trips and the liquids bags are also much smaller. I also scrutinized the liquids and reduced the duplicates or items we could buy in Kona, if we need them.

Dive Gear: We both carry a safety sausage, reel and whistle while we dive in case of emergencies. My reel is large and although it doesn’t weigh much, it takes up volume in my suitcase. We took the reel off and rigged up the sausage to be attached to my BCD with enough line on it to work properly at the surface. Unfortunately, we could not reduce the overall dive gear much.

Clothes: For me, instead of wearing pants on the airplane and packing a pair of shorts, I am leaving the pants at home and wearing the shorts on the plane. Mur is still wearing zip off pants on the plane, but they are doubling as his second pair of shorts on Kona. I also fine tuned my shirts and reduced by 2 from Dominica. Here is what I am taking for clothes to Kona:

  • Sarong and Rash Guard shirt to wear on dive days
  • Shorts and technical shirt to wear on non dive days
  • Dressier shirt, worn with shorts, for evening
  • Dress for evening
  • Three pairs of undies (no bra, but that is another story)
  • Three swimsuits – 2 one piece, 1 two piece (I could make do with 2, but 3 swimsuits is nice – my packing splurge)
  • Boat shoes and dressier flip flops
  • Ice breaker lightweight warm layer for airplane
  • Compression socks for flight
  • Sunhat
carry on only packing

Clothes I am wearing for the flight to Kona

If I take off the list what I am wearing on the airplane, what is packed is reduced to the dressier shirt, dress, 2 undies, 3 swimsuits, flip flops and sunhat. Not much. One of the swimsuits is used for padding around my camera housing, so only 2 actually have to be packed.

carry on only packing

Clothes being packed (flip flops and 2 swimsuits not shown)

We take liquid clothes detergent and do wash every few days. We usually wash what gets overly salty or smelly. And wash again at the end of a stay to make sure we are fresh smelling for the flight home.

The piles on the floor, ready to be packed, do not look very big. They are mostly dive gear and are critical to that sport. Once packed we will weigh our bags and hopefully they are a few ounces or maybe a pound or two lighter.

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Up Close and Personal

Yesterday we were tourists at home. Staying at our house are two folks from Devonshire, GB. A arrived a few weeks ago and N arrived a couple of days ago. We have been busy trying to see a few things tourists in Edmonton are suppose to see.

Bison, Elk island park

Thursday, on the advice of one of the park staff, we arrive at the ‘Bison Loop’ in Elk Island Park at 7 am. First car there I might add. The bison are still on the road and a large number of them are lounging around after a night’s sleep, munching away on the soft dew laden grass. Trying to keep our expectations to a minimum we only hoped to see a buffalo or two. We outdo that by about 50.

Bison, Elk island park

The next couple of hours are bit boring. A few ducks, a goose or two but not much else. We all do our part to ensure mosquitoes survive any issues they have with global warming by contributing a pint of blood each, but that is all the excitement.

Elk Island Park

We head towards a small picnic area for a bite of lunch and there in among the affixed tables is a fine specimen of a male bison bison bison (latin for plains bison). Don’t ask me just look it up. He is very big and well groomed and not the slightest bit interested in us. As he progresses across the lawn munching Elevenzies we watch and take photos.

Bison, Elk Island Park

We get back in the car and he passes within a few feet of  the passenger’s window. A bison, up close and personal.

Bison, Elk Island Park


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Homeward Bound

When we booked this trip we decided to try something different with our flights. Instead of doing one huge long haul from Edmonton to Toronto to Barbados, and the same coming home, we broke it up and stayed overnight in Toronto. This gave us two 4 – 5 hour flights with a sleep in between. I liked this as I am not so jet lagged and not so tired. There was less stress in Toronto as we didn’t have to make a tight connection. I would recommend doing this if you have an extra couple of days. It cost a couple of nights in an airport hotel, but I think it was worth the price.

Some random thoughts…….

The Barbados dive boat helper, M, drove us home after we dove and was telling us about Barbados on the way. We drove by what was once a McDonald’s and he told us that McDonald’s tried to make a go of it there but did not succeed. M said that McDonald’s only sold hamburgers and that the people on the island like chicken! That explains alot of the food on Dominica too. Chicken was a prominent item on all menus and the grocery stores carried lots of chicken and almost no burger. Guess there isn’t much grazing land on the islands.

Apparently, Barbados is out of the hurricane belt of the Caribbean. When looking at a map, the island is out in the Atlantic compared to the other islands. Our airport taxi driver was telling us the last big storm to hit Barbados was in the 1950’s. So it sounds like the island may be a good destination for a fall trip when the other Caribbean islands are on hurricane watch.

Don’t tell anyone, but we checked our bags on the way home. Murray has a Westjet Elite Mastercard and with that card we each get one free checked bag. We will not check bags going somewhere as we want the bags to arrive with us, but we decided to check them coming home. It was nice not having to deal with the rollie bags when boarding the plane but it was slightly annoying having to wait for the bags to show up on the carousel. Give and take, I guess.

When we checked our bags, they got weighed and we realized they were a little heavier than we thought, so we are going to reevaluate what we are carrying and hopefully shave a few pounds out of the bags.



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We spend our last day chilling on the beach. We go down to the beach closest to where we are staying. The waves are rougher today and the tide is coming in, so swimming is a challenge. Actually, no swimming is done, avoiding getting drowned by the continuous onslaught of waves is about all we can do. Murray tries to body surf but the waves are too hard to read and almost too close together. I just try to not get knocked about too badly.


Barbados is a developed island. It is not gross like some of the islands that have been developed in recent times all in one fell swoop. Barbados has been built up over a couple of hundred years. It has a much more organic feel to it. Maybe not the laid back place that I look for but so much better than the Miami look alikes with the 5 star resort every kilometres kind of aesthetic. I don’t mind this place at all.

The roads are wide enough to drive here. Two cars can pass easily. The drivers seem quite polite. A flash of the lights means “you proceed I’ll hang here till you get by.” There is a rush hour but the cars seem to move and after all this is the Caribbean and who the hell is in a hurry anyway.


The beach OMG, the beaches. They dot the coast for as far as we walked in both directions for our hotel. We would have to rent a car in order to confirm the beaches are like that on the entire south coast or around other shores. White sand beaches with the sand extending into the turquoise water and out into the deep blue. We swim in the Atlantic and it is warm, don’t even have to pause as we enter the water.

There is a bit more low life around but you have to expect that from an urban environment. I don’t feel threatened but one has to be a bit more leary.

Food is pretty international here. You can frequent the tourist places and it is quite expensive but if you look about you can eat reasonably cheap. We have found a couple of places worth a return trip.

We only stayed at one place but there is no shortage of accommodation. There is something to suit every taste and pocketbook.


We are mostly packed up ready to make the trek home. I feel like the only reason we are going home is that we have an airplane ticket. I think I would continue to hop about the Caribbean if I could. See you on the other side.

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Debbie’s Dive 400 and Other Tidbits

We dive today with Eco Divers. The second dive is my 400th dive! The sea creatures must have known it was a special dive as some of my favourites swim by to help celebrate.


Spotted Eagle Ray

There is surge here and we rock and roll with the soft corals, back and forth, back and forth. A good couple of dives with a great crew.


When we get back to our little apartment at the Adulo Apartments, Murray realizes that a weight has travelled with us in one of his BCD weight pockets, and we have left our small fish books at the dive shop. Back to the shop we go.

Instead of walking, we take the “bus”. The buses are smallish white vans that hold 10 to 12 passengers. It cost $2 BBD to go anywhere. We flag a #11 bus down, climb in. The driver must have thought he was driving the Indy 500, as he zips through the traffic, stopping suddenly to let passengers off and on, tooting his horn. We arrive at the central bus station intact and only a little squished and shaken up. A wild ride!

We walk home along the beaches and swim at two along the way. We like to bag beaches, which is to swim at as many beaches on an island as we can. Today, the water at some of the beaches is rough, so we do not swim on every one. I remember when we where on San Salvador, with our friend B, we rented a car for one day and drove around the island having a quick swim at each beach we came across. An odd but fun past time.

It is a day filled with diving, bussing and beaching adventures and now we are pooped.



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We sadly say goodbye to our wonderful friends D&C, hop on a plane and end up in Barbados. We have decided to stay three nights in Barbados to check things out before flying home.

We walk today, boy do we walk. I may not be able to get out of bed tomorrow! We walk in one direction, towards Bridgetown in the morning and into the afternoon. And then walk in the other direction towards St Lawrence Gap in the early evening for supper.


We notice there is a mix of well kept buildings and ramshackle ones. We walk by an old house just waiting for us to purchase it and turn it into a boutique B&B. Across the street is a modern tourist apartment complex. There a many lots just waiting for some investment money.


We stop for a swim on a fantastic beach. Soft sand that isn’t screaming hot and water the colour of blue that you can get mesmerized by. The water temp was perfect and it was hard to get out and continue walking. We walk the beach and the air temp is more tolerable by the water than down the concrete and asphalt roadway.



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Last Day on Dominica

We have all day to get across the island which if we were in a hurry would take about an hour. Breakfast at the regular 7:30. We discuss what we should do today. There are a couple of hikes we have not done so we look at the possiblities. Jaco’s Steps is a good possiblity and is on the way we choose to follow.

As we pack the car I realize I am missing my hat. It is a Tilley hat and although it defines me as a tourist even though I try to fit in, that hat has travelled the world and has done a yeoman’s job of it. I’m quite sure I left it at the place we stopped to eat last night. A short detour to LCHQ to see if perhaps the owner had found it and left it somewhere available. But alas my hat is nowhere to be found and I resign myself to wearing Debbie’s straw hat that is 2 sizes too small. Nobody here knows me and fashion is not high on my priority list.

We get a bit over exuberent and by pass the entrance to Jaco’s Steps and drive a kilometer or so down the road before we ask a couple of folks and they indicate we should turn around. There is a place at the roadside where we could park the car but since someone smashed our window while we were parked in a similar spot and today the car is full of our stuff I do not want to park there, so we head down the goat track to the parking below. It is steep, even for this island, and it is gravel. I jokingly comment we may not make it out. Ha, quite a joke.

At the bottom it is not really a National Park and the parking and trail look pretty rustic. We decide not the leave the unattended car there either. About half way back up the track to the highway the car spins out. We are not going any farther. I will have to back down and take another run at it. The three passengers get out and C guides me backwards down the goat path. Thinking the lighter the car the better we divest the auto of most of our luggage which C and Debbie haul up the track. I get a pretty good run and I slip, slide my way up. The entire road is only about 2′ wider than the car and I use the entire width. Full gas and I don’t back off the accelerator. I get past the steep part and still don’t back off, spinning tires all the way with mud and gravel being spewed behind me as I go. This could have been a major development in our travel education but it turned out OK. We learned without dire consequences. Some roads are not for 2 wheel drives loaded to the hilt with passengers and luggage.


Lunch looking out to the Atlantic

The rest of our trip north along the east coast is quite pleasent. The Atlantic Ocean displays its might with powerful surf and crashing waves. It is my last long drive  and I think I am far more relaxed than when I started a couple of weeks ago.

We find our way back to the Coffee River Cottages and get settled in. There is a swimable river on the property and we take advantage of it to douse our sweaty bodies. It is quite fun really, the hotel has a couple of car tire tubes and we spend our time paddling upstream and floating back down until the rocks impede any further travel.

Coffeeriver Cottages

Last day on this island. Debbie and I board a plane to Barbados at 7am and D&Ccatch a flight to St. Maartin at about 9.30. It is sad to go. I like this place. It has not be soiled with resort development and the life is much like I expect it to be on a Caribbean Island. Ciao for now we MAY return.

Torch Lily

Torch Lily

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