Roatan, 2024

Roatan is a dive destination. Sure, one could go there to an all inclusive resort on the beach at West Bay, but most visitors are divers. There are numerous dive shops on the island and hotels are plentiful. My friend, B, and I are here to dive.

Roatan
Spotted Eagle Ray

B and I stay at the Grand Bleu, in Sandy Bay, and also dive with their dive shop. The Grand Bleu is owned and operated by Patrice, from Quebec, Canada. It serves mostly French Canadians, but also the occasional English speaker. We are the only 2 English speaking guests during our stay. I must be honest and say that if you do not speak French, you will feel left out of many conversations.

Roatan
Supper Destination!

There are 8 (or 9) rooms, plainly designed but comfortable. A common kitchen allows for meals cooked in. We opt to eat in for breakfast and lunch and go out for supper. There are only two restaurants within walking distance, which we frequented, and then we make the trip into West End for a number of suppers. We plan a few leftover suppers so our food budget comes in well under the amount we had planned.

Roatan
Lettuce Leaf Slug

The dive shop is well run and efficient. We get to dive on the south side of the island for two days as the wind came up, which made diving impossible on the north side. The south side isn’t used as much and it showed by how much more wildlife there was.

We see all the usual fish creatures under the waves. Just relaxing, floating and cruising in the water, looking for small shrimps and crabs, fish, eels, lobsters and rays is what I love about scuba diving. I just never know what I will find under the next outcropping or around the next corner. It’s magical.

B and I have a great time diving and exploring Roatan.

Posted in Roatan | Tagged , | Leave a comment

A Girls Trip to Roatan, Honduras!

When Murray and I returned from our disastrous liveaboard trip in Indonesia where I missed 14 dives, the idea was floated that I should go diving on my own to make up the dives. I rolled that idea around in my head for awhile and then asked my friend, B, whether she wanted to go diving with me. She said YES! and asked if I wanted to go to Roatan and I said YES!

We set about researching places to stay and decided on the Grand Bleu Diving, in Sandy Bay. Sandy Bay is a short 5 minute taxi ride from West End, where Murray and I had stayed before. The folks who own the Coral Paradise Resort, in Bonaire, had suggested the Grand Bleu, as both sets of owners are Canadian. We will be staying and diving with the Grand Bleu.

The hotel has fridges in the rooms and a common area where meals can be prepared, so we are going to eat breakfast and lunch in and then go out for supper. There are only a couple of restaurants within walking distance of the hotel, so we will also travel into West End to eat.

We are now two sleeps away from leaving and I am, of course, mostly packed and ready to go. While packing, I realized that Murray usually carries some of my gear, making my load lighter. For this trip, I have to take everything I need, so my bags are a little fuller and a touch heavier.

It is taking two days to get to Roatan from Edmonton. The flights from Canada and into the Caribbean do not mesh in Houston, so we have to overnight in Houston. This time it is a quick stop there and a trip to the Johnson Space Center is not scheduled.

I’ll post again once we are settled in Roatan. Excited!

Posted in Roatan | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Wells Gray March 04 to 09, 2024

Day One

It is the first time we have been to Wells Gray Provincial Park. It is British Columbia near Clearwater. Clearwater is our jumping off point and we catch the heli there. The trip is just short of ½ an hour. The lodge is located on the edge of a huge sub-alpine meadow at around 1,900M. The view from the front window is of Fight Meadows. The cabin was built about 1986, is 2 floors with the sleeping area upstairs, it has a propane stove, heating, fridge and sauna, there are solar panels that provide the lighting and one charging station, and can accommodate up to 10 people.  The heli drops us off, Tay, one of the owners and her daughter, who were there opening up the lodge, get on and poof we are alone in the wilderness.

Fight Meadow cabin

We are the first people to use the lodge this winter so we have to set the uptrack  and navigate to skiable terrain. Our first destination is Fifty Two Ridge. We didn’t know what we were looking for or what to expect. We arrive at the top of the ridge and there are numerous open glades 30 or 40 turns long. The slope is very shallow but the snow is light and fast. The skiing on the first day is a success.

 Day Two

We use the uptrack we put in yesterday extend it a little and make our way to the top of Fifty Two Ridge. The sky is clearing and the vista is truly spectacular. From our vantage point we can clearly see our goal, ‘Battle Mountain’. The south side of the mountain is quite skiable and we find our way down from the ridge across a valley and up Battle Mountain. Before we enter the trees we set a compass reading and uptrack without vision but head up. We find our way to the bottom of a wide open glade and track our way to the top. The trip down tells us the snow is as good as yesterday. Another trip up our set track and the second run is right to the valley bottom. We uptracked and skied our way back to the lodge. Every turn was through fluffy, soft boot top snow.

Our tracks down Battle Mountain

Day Three

Debbie takes the day off. M and I head to an unnamed ridge SE across the meadow. It turns out our objective is a long way. Two hours of trekking and we find some skiable terrain. We are standing on top of the ridge and can see for many miles. There are several very skiable open glades on all sides of the apex. We ski the north facing slopes putting one set of tracks down each. The snow is perfect. What I would call ‘hero snow’. It is impossible to have a bad turn. It is so pliable that every err is easily corrected.

Instead of following the uptrack home we decide to traverse above the cliff face we followed on the way in and find a route down through the rocks. A bit of searching and a skiable route is found. A couple of cautious turns and the terrain opens in front of us. A whoop and we’re headed down. The skiing is fantastic, open trees, great snow and a perfect pitch for skiing. Honestly it was one of the best runs I have had in 55 years of skiing.

Day Four

We are headed to ski up the north face of Fifty Two Ridge. The slopes are a bit steeper than the south face which makes for much better skiing. We choose an area and test it with a run. Again the snow is great and the slope is perfect for Debbie. Set an uptrack and use it for the rest of the day yo yoing that slope and ones adjacent. We made enough runs to trash a good portion of the slopes and headed home for the night.

On the top of Fifty Two Ridge

Day Five

Four days of long touring have taken their toll and we are all bagged. It took a while to get out the door today and our goal is to follow the route we took on the first day and ski the same area in the south facing glades off Fifty Two Ridge. There is some wind effect and the snow in the open areas is quite stiff. We change our objective and since the trees are spread apart we decide to ski in the trees. The trees protected the snow and it is still soft and fluffy. The slope is very shallow but we still have a good time. Heli comes tomorrow.

We’ve had a good few days, wonderful snow and outstanding scenery.

View from the cabin
Posted in Western Canada | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Namibia and Egypt Photos

A selection of photos from our trip to Namibia and Egypt is now posted to the blog.

To view photos, hover over “Photos” until the drop down menu appears. The photos are under the “Africa” subheading. Hover over “Arica” and another drop down menu appears with “Namibia 2023” and “Egypt 2023″listed. Click on either in the drop down menu. Wait until the photos load. Click on the first photo and a “slide show” view will appear. Scroll through the photos using the arrow on the right hand side or the arrow key. Click on the “x” in the upper right hand corner to exit out of the slide show. Enjoy!

Posted in Egypt, Namibia | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Cairo, a last look

There are lots of cats and dogs in Egypt that do not belong to anyone. In Cairo, it is the cats that are a nuisance around the outdoor cafes, and everywhere really. Under tables, around my feet, pawing at my leg for scraps of food. Someone is going to have to get busy and do something or the cats will take over the city, or maybe they have already!

Cairo, Egypt

Downtown Cairo is laid out like Paris. Apparently French architects were commissioned by Khedive Ismail to design the city so that is was the jewel of the orient. Our hotel is on a five spoked intersection with a statue in the hub. The buildings look just like ones found in Paris. 

Many of the streets in Cairo have been changed to one way to enhance traffic flow. They do not have lane lines as the drivers don’t follow the lanes anyway. Saves on line painting costs. The one ways are easier to cross too. We follow our trusted method and attach ourselves to a local and cross with them. Sometimes they are completely unaware that we are doing this. Walking slowly, within inches of the moving vehicles can be disconcerting to a westerner but the system works. We have had no issues with crossing the streets. The cars and motorbikes are constantly beeping, but it is mostly to say “I am right behind you”, or sometimes “Get out of my way!”. The traffic will be so quiet once we get back to Canada.

Cairo, Egypt

When we first arrived in Cairo, we stayed at a large chain hotel. Not much character, standard western look and services. Right now, we are staying in a small local hotel called the Cairo Inn. It is clean and safe, the staff very friendly and the rooms definitely have character. This is so much more fun than a big chain hotel with their thousands of tour group tourists.

Cairo, Egypt

The typical meal schedule for an Egyptian in Cairo is breakfast between 9 – 11 am, a snack between 2 – 3 pm, lunch between 6 – 7 pm, and dinner between 10 – 11 pm. Lunch is the big meal and dinner is a lighter meal or maybe leftover lunch or grilled cheese. We were not following this schedule, of course, as we were comatose by 9:30 pm every night!

Tonight we start our journey home. But why does the flight have to depart at 2:00 am? Gruesome start to a 24+ hour journey. I do know why, flight leaves here at 2:00am and arrives in Frankfurt at about 6:00am, when the airport opens. I bet it has something to do with fees and what time flights arrive. Anyway, we had a nap this afternoon and are now chilling before we go for supper. Then shower, pack and taxi at 10:15pm to start our homeward journey.

Cairo, Egypt
Posted in Egypt | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Downtown Cairo Food Tour

Murray and I meet P, our guide from Bellies En-Route, who is going to take us on a food tour of downtown Cairo. Joining our group is E, a young Italian currently living in London. P explains there will be eight stops with two adventure stops, if we dare. She also says to pace ourselves, as far as eating is concerned, as we are going to try many foods.

Bellies En-Route was started about 2016 by two women who love food and want to share the local Cairo food with others. There are tours every day in downtown Cairo and Heliopolis. They have 14 guides working for them now who share their enthusiasm for food and Cairo with folks from all over the world.

Our first stop is a shop that sells freshly made potato chips and a variety of pita with a falafel patty and tahini inside. The chips are slightly spiced and very yummy, but I only have a few when I could have eaten the whole bunch.

Next stop is Arabic coffee from Yemen, which only E has as we do not drink coffee. It is very pale in colour in the cup due to the process used to make it, but E says it is delicate tasting and very nice.

A small eatery is next where we try vermicelli rice, white beans in tomato sauce, zucchini, spinach and roasted chicken. 

Cairo, Egypt

P tests on our fruit juice knowledge and slowly gives us eight different juices to try. Coconut with milk, tamarind, sugar cane, mandarin orange, honey dew melon, hibiscus, pomegranate and mango. My fav is the mandarin and the surprise is the tamarind.

Koshari
Koshari

Our next two stops are small restaurants. The Felfela serves dishes of eggplant, baba ganouche, fava beans, steamed falafel balls and something called molokheya served on rice, which is a mixture of jute leaves and coriander prepared in a very specific way.  The second restaurant is the Abu Tarek, which serves koshari, which we had eaten when in Cairo two weeks ago.

Felfela Restaurant, Cairo
Felfela Restaurant

We stop in the market to try Parmesan type hard cheese and bread dipped in a molasses and tahini mixture. The dip was very sweet but the tahini moderated the molasses taste.

A sweet shop is a must so we stop there to try a number of small pieces of baklava and other delights.

Cairo, Egypt

Murray and I pass on the adventure stop, but E tries liver in pita and passes on the cow brains.

Our last stop is for drinks in the Rooftop Garden on top of the Carlton Hotel. The hotel was built in the 1930s and has the grandeur of that time period. It was a very enjoyable time trying local foods and chatting with P and E about live in Egypt, London, Italy and Canada.

Posted in Egypt | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Egypt Olio

Here we sit in a 5 star hotel in Aswan waiting for a plane ride back to the chaos of Cairo. The room temp is a 28C. It is amazing how the body adapts. Several days in the outdoors at 30C+ and a temperature that is normally much too hot is quite comfortable.

We drove through the Nubian Desert, which is part of the Sahara Desert. It is different kind of desert compared to Namibia. Tan coloured sand with black rock outcroppings every so often. It is mostly flat, whereas in Namibia, it is quite undulating.

Nubian Desert
Nubian Desert

The Egyptian government is heading up a project called The Desert Land Reclamation Project. They are constructing some 60 km of canals to carry water from the Nile and Nasser Lake to irrigate agricultural land. Crops are growing in the sand, using great arms to water them. Wheat is the predominant crop, which resulted from the inability to obtain wheat due to the war in the Ukraine. The crops are mostly large circles as the irrigation arms move in a circular fashion. If you check out Google Maps, just north of Abu Simbel, you can see how many crop circles there are. Just think if the whole desert were to be growing crops, the food shortage would be history!

Crop Circles!
Crop Circles!

Many lunches and suppers are a choice of fish, chicken or beef. Either grilled or tagine. Tagine, chicken say, is pieces of chicken cooked in a small clay pot in broth, or gravy, very similar to a stew. Tagine is served with rice and cooked veggies. The meals are usually also served with appetizers of bread, tahini, eggplant and some soup. Too much food!

My favourite refreshment here is a lemon mint drink. Basically, lemonade with mint and a touch of sugar. Very delicious after a hot day in the sun touring temples.

Here in Egypt, paying for the use of toilets is the norm. Not much makes me annoyed when we travel, but this practise does. We stop at a “rest stop” on the way to Abu Simbel. I think the owner makes more money on the toilets than he does selling coffee, trinkets, chips and chocolate bars. I can see the reasoning behind this model, but I do not like it. In a museum or temple, sometimes there is a person handing out TP for 5 or 10 Egyptian Pounds (25 or 50 cents), so I pay. This person may not get a wage and his earnings are what he collects in a day, which might be quite a lot at a busy temple.

On our group tour we get up early. I think the earliest is at 5:00 for a departure at 5:30 am, with breakfast after we get back. This early hour is to watch the sunrise at the Temple of Karnak. We are the only group there at 6:00 when the gates open, take beautiful photos and we are on our way out when the masses arrive. Our intrepid guide is very good at getting us to temples before the main rush, so for that I will get up early.

Hatshepsut’s Cracked Obelisk
Hatshepsut’s Cracked Obelisk

We stop at two quarries on our travels, one limestone and one granite. The limestone quarry is beside the Nile and we see where great blocks were chiselled out and moved down to the water’s edge. The granite quarry is in Aswan and away from the river slightly. It is the quarry where an obelisk for Hatshepsut was being carved when it cracked and thus discarded. It is still laying in the quarry after all the centuries.

Posted in Egypt | Tagged | Leave a comment

Abu Simbel

Today, after about a three hour drive south of Aswan, we arrive in Abu Simbel. The reason why we are here is the temple to Ramses II, with its imposing four seated figures.

Ramses wanted a temple close to the Nubian border to show power and strength, and it does do that. There is also a temple for his wife Queen Nefertari.

Inside Ramses’ temple are scenes of the great battle of the Hittites around 1260 BC. There is one scene of Ramses in his chariot with his pet lion running beside him. The temple is awe inspiring.

What makes these two temples very unique is the fact that, when the Aswan High Dam, was being constructed, the temples were moved to higher ground as they would have been flooded behind the dam. UNESCO and five countries aided in the deconstruction, move and reconstruction of the temples. The temples were cut into about 1,000 pieces for the move. Two great domes of concrete were constructed, the temples built and then rock was laid over the concrete to look like hills, or mountains. It is impressive. It took over four years to complete with many thousands of workers and engineers.

The temples look over Lake Nasser or, as the locals call it, The Nubian Sea. It is a huge body of water that was created by the Aswan High Dam and supplies water to Egyptians all the way to the Mediterranean.

Posted in Egypt | Tagged | Leave a comment

More Egypt Bits

High relief
High relief

There are two types of relief used on the temple walls. High relief, where the background is flat figures and objects are raised. Deep cut, or low, relief is where the figures and objects are cut into the stone and the background is higher.

Deep cut, or low, relief
Deep cut, or low, relief

Our small group have visited two separate households along the Nile. This is what makes the tours with Wild Frontiers so special. The first one is with a young woman named Esma, who invites us into her home and serves us tea while we chat about her life and the community around her. The second visit was with Syad and his family. He is quite humorous but very knowledgeable about what is going on in the world. The village where he lives has 300 people, who are farmers and fishermen. His family has two acres to farm, where they grow various crops to sell and to consume personally. It is a very enjoyable visit and we run overtime and could have stayed longer.

Egypt

We visit the site of the Daraw camel market, but unfortunately the market is not on today. A fellow shows us his “barn” where he has four camels, a horse, some cows, sheep and goats. The camels are two mothers and two youngsters. They seem content and weren’t bothered by us tourists. Most of the camels in Egypt come from Sudan and are used for transportation, meat, milk, breeding and tourism. Rather sadly, the camels in the tourist industry (like in Giza near the great pyramids) are not treated as they should be.

Posted in Egypt | Tagged | Leave a comment

Egypt Bits

The biggest insect caution we got when coming to Egypt was mosquitoes. I haven’t seen one in over a week here. What drives me crazy are the flies. They are incessant. They fly at your face, nose, ears, and mouth. Swish them away and they are back in a second. There are not many inside the air-conditioned hotel and there are not any hanging around the boat. I think the coolness of the AC and the constant breeze set by the moving boat are deterrents.  

Egypt

If you do any research prior to your trip to Egypt you will most likely be apprehensive about setting foot outside your hotel for fear the touts will overwhelm you. I have not found this to be the case at all. There are touts. There are touts that will try to interest you in anything saleable. Some folks will show you something ‘really special’ and then expect to be paid for doing it. I have yet to follow any of them. Others have wares that you might ‘need.’ Really, all these folks are just marketing the way they know how. I have run into very few that are aggressive and most of the time ‘la a’(no) or ‘la a shukran’ (no thank you) is sufficient enough for the tout to cease pestering you. I always try to be polite and in the long run I approach the situation as good fun, part of life in Egypt. Walking though a market would be terribly boring without these people.

When visiting Bhutan, we were about to go into the umpteenth temple in two weeks and I turned to Debbie and said ‘I’m zhonged out’. The temples in Bhutan are zhongs and they all started to look the same and I had no more capacity to absorb any more Buddhist lore. It has been 7 days since we landed in Egypt and my brain is full. The temples are starting to look the same and I cannot sort one God or ruler from the other. There are kings that are famous for some reason or another and some that are obscure. There are warriors and there are builders. There is the first, the second and the third and right now the are all muddled together. I’m templed out.

Egypt

Prior to leaving on this trip I got a phone call from a friend saying I should give him a call. He had been in Egypt in the spring. I called. He told me the trip was very good, the boat down the Nile was exceptional. He did feel he should give me a warning. “Don’t go outside the hotel compound, Egypt is really sketchy.” I am always leery when I hear things like that. I have heard it so many times I take it with a grain of salt. Somehow this fellow had been informed or convinced that because there are many armed policemen at varying street corners in the cities and armed guards at the gates of the hotel that Egypt is unsafe. The guides and folks we have met all say Egypt is a very safe place to be. We have been wandering around Cairo and Luxor and frankly I think the warning could not have been farther from the reality. Not once have I felt threatened or in any kind of danger. I have turned on my spidey sense and it has not tingled at all. One day I may get burned but I must believe that the vast majority of people are good and you can’t live your life based on the action of a few bad ones.

We did not plan to visit any of the tombs inside the pyramids but we had the opportunity and took it. Jasmine our guide told us if we wanted to do that we should go to the bent or red pyramids. It was free to go into those where as the three more famous and more visited pyramids there was a charge. The caveat was that the bent pyramid had the hardest passageway. It is very low and long and there are many ups and downs. This of course is a challenge if I have ever heard one.

Debbie entered first. The corridor shrank in height very quickly. The first part of the passage was about 1M in height. We didn’t have to bum slide but we were crouched down, folding our body in about half. Our legs were screaming but the time we reached the first place we could stand. The next section has stairs and was vertical. Another long shaft with even less height than the first but not quite as long. At the next place of reasonable height we were not sure we would be able to stand ever again. The next stairs were in an elevator sized shaft and about 10M high. It was a short trip to the tomb from there. Frankly it was not worth the tremendous effort required to get there. Getting out was easier in my opinion. I could support myself on the handrails in a more horizontal position which did not stress my legs so much. The journey was not too bad and although our legs were spongy when we exited it was the next two days that were hell. Neither of us could walk up or down stairs without grimacing . It took us three days to recover. Ouch!

Fruit box construction
Fruit box construction

In the ancient Egyptian calendar had 10 days in a week, and three weeks in a month and 12 months in a year with five days of celebrations for a different god each day. There were three seasons – the flood, cultivating and harvesting.

Posted in Egypt | Tagged | Leave a comment