Aphaia


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Costa Rica Coffee and Panama Panic (aka Scraped ships aren’t good)

So yesterday was the rainforest and it was rather good. Left the ship at 7.30am and drove for two hours through banana and pineapple plantations (ever seen pineapples growing? Its rather bizarre looking….like a huge field of demented hedgehogs…all prickly!) Got to the private reserve where the trip was taking place, it’s an eco-education project that was originally meant for education only…then they opened it to locals and tourists. It was an aerial tram ride through the rainforest. The first half mile is done through the middle of the canopy and the second half through the very tops of the trees. Saw a few different things, butterflies (lots of them, all multicoloured and ranging from tiny to huge, there was an amazing iridescent blue one that flew like it was drunk in an attempt to avoid predators…I think it had just been overdoing it on the nectar!), humming birds and I managed to get a picture of one to prove it, can’t see its wings but its definitely a bird and its feeding. Also saw a baby eyelash viper, one of the deadliest snakes in Costa Rica, it was tiny and looked like a dead leaf, until you spotted the head and then it didn’t look very leaf-like. And the moment of excitement…we saw a sloth. It was up a tree on the very end of a branch and the guide told us it was a three toed sloth (because of the colour – we weren’t counting the toes).Only a few people on our tour saw it so I felt rather privileged, especially as the guides said at the beginning that it would be unlikely to see any animals. We also saw a lot of bugs, got some great pictures of big spiders, including a slightly blurry picture of a spider which spins a gold-coloured web. Plus giant crickets, huge bullet ants (think inch and half in size) and leaf-cutter ants. After the tram ride we went on a walk through the rainforest at ground level and got to see the ants all up close and personal…we had bug spray on so they didn’t really bother us, but other people had them climbing up there legs and in their shoes, it was rather funny watching them hop around trying to get rid of them. We saw one person throw his sandals around. After all that we went for lunch…Costa Ricans do good fried chicken, plus they had this really tasty brown sauce which we weren’t exactly sure what it was but it tasted nice so we got some. Then we headed back to the port, via a stop in a banana field where we looked at the trees and the flowers from which the bananas grow. Back at the port had a wander around, and found the supermarket…got some fresh ground local coffee to try – smells gorgeous. Rather like visiting supermarkets in different places, means I can pick up stuff to play with at home.

Last night they had a Ceilidh, not quite as wild as I’ve been used to but rather good fun. People were getting all confused and it was hilarious to watch. Had a couple of dances, and I actually remember more of the steps than I realised.

Today is the big highlight of the trip, as I’m currently in transit through the Panama canal. We’ve gone through the first set of locks and are currently in Gatun Lake on our way to the cut and the next two sets before entering the Pacific Ocean. Got up at six am and entered the Gatun Locks, another cruise ship was ahead of us in the right hand lane and that looked tight enough…our ship is somewhat larger. Was right at the front to see the ship enter the locks, then snuck off to the dining room, and sat at the aft of the ship to see the gates close and the ship be raised. Not quite that simple, got to dining room, got nice table, got nice view. Then all the waiters stared in panic at the sides, had less than a foot of clearance either side of the ship and we weren’t going in a straight line. Got a hilarious photo of mum and the waiters staring in bemusement at this wall, then theship started scraping along the side of the lock…then the wood buffering the wall started smoking….never seen people jump back so fast. Really hate to see the side of the ship…since its all nice and white…I don’t think its quite so pristine now, it was all the scraping and grinding noises that accompanied breakfast. At this point it wasn’t that busy in the dining room, it wasn’t till we entered the third tier of that lock set that everyone else came in. Since everyone else in the room had seen all the scraping and close proximity to walls, it was rather fun to sit back and watch the looks of shock and horror on the new arrival’s faces. This is the ship’s first transit of the canal so we have a helicopter accompanying s taking aerial photographs. As for wildlife, seen pelicans, green parrots and an alligator…you know the usual. Saw dolphins actually when we were at sea the other day.

We should be passing through the cut (where there is an inscription detailing all the construction information) around noon, then the Pedro Miguel Locks around 1.30-2pm and the final set of locks, the Miraflores locks around 3pm. Going to dock in Fuerte Amador in Panama about 6pm for a few hours, then three days at sea, before we reach Puerto Quetzal in Guatemala (where I finally get to see some archaeology! Going to an archaeological museum to see objects excavated from the ruins in the country).

So I’m typing this on the balcony, rather pleased that we got a balcony at the aft of the ship as we have great views of everything that is going on.


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Aruba! Aruba!

Been in Aruba today…as you probably gathered. Went on a snorkelling trip and saw fish! Mum managed to trip over a fish which was impressive…but it was a big fish, and both of them swam away afterwards so all was well. Got a disposable underwater camera to take on that trip so took lots of pictures, hopefully some of them will come out so I’ll bore you death with them when I come back to Glasgow. Headed out about 8.30 and was snorkelling for about an hour and half…then basked in the sun and am currently paying the price…I have some interesting sunburn but it doesn’t hurt except for two small areas on my shoulders…makes wearing clothes interesting in new and painful ways. Mooched around the port of Oranjestad this afternoon but everything was really pricey…think designer labels (i.e. Gucci, Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren) and way out of my price range. At sea tomorrow, then in Costa Rica on Thursday…going for a trek through a rainforest, and an aerial tram ride in the rainforest canopy. When we are at sea tomorrow there’s another wine tasting session – red this time! Yum! Anyway I better go, there’s a Singapore Sling with my name on it waiting for me.


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Sun, warmth, cocktails…why spend christmas being cold?

At sea today, and am sitting in a bar typing while waiting for a wine tasting session to start (Yum!) Arrived safely as you are aware, only saw Barbados from the coach that took us to the Ship, got shipped straight off aircraft to bus then straight to ship – didn’t get to have a wander on the island but was so tired I didn’t really care. What I saw of Barbados was curious, it didn’t look like how I expected a Caribbean island to look. But we got on board quickly and found the cabin…it’s big, the balcony is larger than my room in Glasgow and it has a much nicer view. Didn’t sail from Barbados until 10 at night since quite a few of the flights out were delayed (including ours by an 1+1/2 hours although we arrived much earlier in the day).

Was in Grenada yesterday, went out on a tour of the island, so much of the hurricane damage by Hurricane Ivan is still visible, pretty much every building has a new roof (although there are some that need new walls or complete rebuilding), and the devastation to the rainforest is immense, it really brings home how bad these things are, watching them on the news tends not to have the same impact. Drove from the ship up to an old fort occupied by various forces throughout the island’s history, it has tremendous views over the capital, port and inland. The island is much more how expected Caribbean islands to look, hilly and green. From there we went up into the hills through the forest to a lake in a volcanic crater. The driver kept stopping and picking spices through the bus windows, saw fresh nutmeg and mace, cinnamon leaves and bay leaves, smells were amazing. We were meant to go to an old spice plantation for demonstrations but it wasn’t open, the staff had gone off for a beer, so that is currently being sorted out since the main point of the tour was to go to this place. After that we carried on and went to a beachside restaurant for lunch. Then I played in the sea, it was warm, and the waves rather strong, if you weren’t careful you got knocked over and dragged up and down the beach, once you got past the breakers you could bob up and down quite happily without any bother, getting out was entertaining though, and the sand gets everywhere.

Today is going to be a much more leisurely day, with wine tasting and lunch and cocktails and I’m not really sure what else.