A Brief Look of Cozumel

Before heading back to the United States, we had a day to spend in Cozumel. I’ve already visited Mexico a couple of years ago and I’ve seen the states of Quintana Roo and a little bit of the Yucatán Peninsula. Since our cruise ship docked in the port of Cozumel, what better to do than to have a brief look of Cozumel.

Welcome to Cozumel

Cozumel is an island and municipality in the Caribbean Sea off the eastern coast of the Yucatán Peninsula. The municipality is part of the state of Quintana Roo with the likes of Cancún. The economy of Cozumel is based on tourism. The place is famous to tourists for scuba diving, snorkeling and its beaches and shoreline. We were in Puerta Maya and was exploring the stores and places around.

Puerta Maya and me
Puerta Maya photo location with cruise ships as backdrop
Stores and more stores
Souvenir shops in hut
Refreshments in a hut

The port of Cozumel is so famous of cruise ships that everyday it is packed. It is busy with travelers. Stores are full of buyers and customers. It is indeed a good location due to the proximity back to the port of call in Miami, Florida.

Carnival Glory
Carnival Paradise with Cozumel’s shores

It was brief but I was slightly disappointed. I was really looking forward to swim in Cozumel. My expectation was set so high that I got dissatisfied with my visit. I really thought they would have a swimming area like what Grand Turk has.

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Xunantunich Mayan Ruins of Cayo, Belize

Xunantunich is about 2 hours from Belize City. While we were on the road, our tour guide gave us some important facts. Xunantunich is a famous Mayan archaeological site in western Belize, in the Cayo District. It is located atop a ridge above the Mopan River, within sight of the Guatemala border which is less than a mile to the west.

photo credit: Google Maps

The journey began with a relaxing scenic trip to the Mopan River, passing several villages and towns along the way. We passed Hattieville and our tour guide, Maude, got our attention to look on the mountains that looks like a sleeping giant. The locals called it, the Virgin of the Sleeping Giant.

Virgin of the Sleeping Giant

We passed the intersection that will lead to Belmopan. Belmopan is the capital city of the country. It is located also in Cayo District at an altitude of 249 feet above sea level. Belmopan was constructed just to the east of Belize River, 50 miles inland from the former capital, Belize City. The government was moved to Belmopan and made it the capital due to the former city’s near destruction by Hurricane Hattie.

Crossing to the Belmopan Sign

I took a quick shuteye for about 30 mins and then, we got to Santa Elena. Santa Elena was used to be a separate village and was absorbed by the town of San Ignacio, making the latter the largest settlement in Cayo District and the second largest in the country after Belize City.

Santa Elena roundabout

About 20 minutes from Santa Elena, we arrived in San Jose Succotz. San Jose Succotz is a Maya village consisting mainly of people of Yucatec Maya descent. It is also the location of the famous ruins. After we got off the bus, we, then, took a 5-minute ferry ride crossing the river to access the remote ruins. Next was a van ride approximately 5-10 minutes to get to the site. We have to walk uphill and after few minutes, we finally saw the ruins. It was truly a sight to behold.

Xunantunich Sign
River crossing
Van ride to the ruins
My first sight of El Castillo of the Xunantunich

Xunantunich which means stone lady; xunan for stone and tunich for lady. This site was a major ceremonial center during the Classical Period composed of six major plazas and surrounded by more than 25 temples and palaces.

El Castillo

The largest temple, El Castillo, has been excavated and partially restored; it is famous for its frieze, a banded stucco decoration that at one time extended around the entire pyramid. It is the second tallest structure in Belize. El Castillo is the ‘axis mundi’ of the site, or the intersection of the two cardinal lines.

Front view of El Castillo
Top of El Castillo and its intricate carvings, meanings and stories

Visitors can climb the ruins, sitting atop a natural limestone ridge, the site provided panoramic views of the hilly Cayo District and even a town in Guatemala. I got tons of photos and it sure was mesmerizing. It wasn’t as hot as Chichén Itzá since there are a lot of trees where you can rest under the shade.

View on top of El Castillo
View of Guatemala from El Castillo

The Introductory Site History and Display Centers is found at the entrance to the center and is also one of the major attractions in the ruins site. Guests can see more of the artifacts. They can get more and detailed information of the discovery and history of the Mayan culture.

Xunantunich Visitor Center
Artifacts

After exploring the ancient Mayan site, we returned to San Ignacio area for a local lunch before heading back to Belize City. We went to Hode’s Place Restaurant and Bar.

Hode’s Place Restaurant & Bar
Coconut chicken with rice and beans, fried plantain and coleslaw

We got the coconut chicken with rice and beans, a fried plantain, and a coleslaw. It was one of the best meal I had during this trip. It was delicious that I want to have more but we were on a tight schedule.

The whole Xunantunich Mayan Ruins trip was wonderful. Belize brought me great memories! I have learned few facts about the country and its rich ancient Mayan history. It was an amazing experience with whole bamboo chickens group of Maude, our tour guide.

Visit my YouTube channel for my Un-Belize-able vlog:

Explore Cayman by Land and Sea

As a birthday present, I went on another cruise adventure. This time, I traveled with a special someone visiting new territories and countries. Since my first cruise trip was thru Carnival and I was pleased with the experience, thus, I picked them again. Coincidentally, I got Carnival Glory again. The same ship I sailed last year when I visited the Bahamas, Dominican Republic, and Turks and Caicos Islands. I titled this trip, Cruising Together. The first stop was the Cayman Islands.

Cayman Islands Flag
Grand Cayman Port

The Cayman Islands is a British Overseas Territory that encompasses 3 islands in the western Caribbean Sea. Grand Cayman is the largest island and is known for its beach resorts and varied scuba diving and snorkeling sites. Next is the Cayman Brac which is popular launch point for deep-sea fishing excursions. Then, Little Cayman, the smallest island, is home to diverse wildlife from endangered iguanas to seabirds. The ship was plotted its stop at the Grand Cayman. Carnival Cruises offered various excursions but we chose something that we’ll explore the island. So, we ended up with Explore Cayman by Land and Sea.

The Nautilus

After we were tendered to the port of George Town, we were ushered by the tour organizers to our coaster. In a few minutes, we left the port and headed to our first shore excursion destination which was the Nautilus. The Nautilus is a spacious, air-conditioned luxurious semi-submarine where tourists can explore the fabulous wonders under the sea.Thru Nautilus, we were able to see amazing coral reefs, a spectacular fun-filled fish feeding show, and two ghostly shipwrecks. These shipwrecks were sitting in the bottom of the sea for years and years, the Cali from Germany and the Balboa from Italy. Kudos to Martin and Dennis for a job well done in touring us under the sea.

Inside the semi-submarine, Nautilus
Coral Reefs
Feeding the Fishes
Balboa Shipwreck
Cali Shipwreck
The shipwrecks adding more attractions under the sea

We, then, continue on land in our air-conditioned coach as our tour guide regales us with tales from the island’s colorful past. Our next stop is at a place called Hell. It was just a short drive.

Xach1 posing in the sign, Welcome to Hell

The Hell is a group of short, black limestone formations located in West Bay. It is roughly the size of a football field. Visitors are not permitted to walk on the limestone formations but there is a viewing deck. There were numerous speculations on how this place got its name. It was claimed ‘Hell’ from the fact that if a pebble is thrown out into the formation, it echoes among the limestone peaks and valleys and sounds as if the pebble is falling all the way down to ‘Hell’. Regardless of how it first came to be called Hell, the name stuck and the area has become a tourist attraction, featuring a red hell-themed post office from which you can send ‘postcards from hell’, and a gift shop passing out souvenirs.

Limestone Formation
The Devil standing in the Hell Limestone Formation

After the Hell, we had a brief stop at one of the island’s rum cake centers where we got to taste the local delicacy. We were in Tortuga Rum Store. It is an authentic treasure and taste of the Caribbean.

Tortuga Caribbean Rum Cake in Grand Cayman
The View Just Outside the Store
The Cracked Conch Restaurant and Tiki Bar near the store

The last stop was the Cayman Turtle Center. It is the only sea turtle center in the world. We were guided and educated about these turtles, from tiny hatchlings to the big breeders.  We were able to pick up a turtle for a ‘turtally’ fantastic photo opportunity. I am usually not a fan of taking photos with endangered species but somehow, this picture will help awareness to the world about taking care of mother nature and the ocean. Because we don’t know, one of these days, these harmless creatures will be found only in the pages of our books or ebooks. Let’s help save Mother Nature.

Cayman Turtle Centre
Breeding Pond
Turtles…
….and more turtles.
xach1 and I posing with the baby turtles

The whole time I was in Grand Cayman was amazing. Too bad at the end of our tour, we were hit by a sudden gust of strong winds and rains. We had to go back to the cruise ship and everyone was so eager to get to the ship, making the longest and tightest queue I had experience during my cruise adventure. But all in all, it was awesome. I got to explore Cayman by land and sea thru a semi-submarine.

Watch my vlog entry that featured my trip in the Cayman Islands:

Spelunking the Marengo Cave

Most of my co-workers went on a vacation while I was stuck in the workplace. I need to escape thus, I have decided to go on a road trip for a couple of days. It was a good timing since it was the fourth of July Holiday week. I have 4 days off so, I have ample time to drive to other states and be back home with having enough rest for work the next week. It is summer here in the U.S and the heat is scorching. I mentioned escaping meaning I got to get away of the sun’s unforgivable heat, making me think of going underground. Then, I have made up my mind and thought of exploring caves. I have already explored the cave in Laurel Caverns in Pennsylvania, so, this time it is the opposite side. I researched the web and saw a cave in Indiana. Without having second thoughts, I plotted my trip as spelunking the Marengo Cave.

Marengo Cave is located in Marengo, Indiana. It is a privately owned cave and was designated as a National Natural Landmark back in 1984. The cave was discovered by two children, Orris and Blanche Hiestand. They kept it a secret but after two days, they told Samuel Stewart. Mr. Stewart opened the cave for tourists the same day he was told by the kids. There were many stories on how it was discovered but according to Maddy, our tour guide, it was the 2 kids who found the cave first. Here are the photos I took while being a cave spelunkers.

Start of the Crystal Cave Tour where the plaque can be seen representing Orris and Blanche discovering the cave

Behind the big stone where the plaque was placed was a different world waiting for spelunkers to discover

First Stop is the Mirror Lake. The crystal clear water is giving a mirror effect.

Rock Formation that looks like ginormous chandelier. These are stalactites.

And then, there is stalagmite.

When these two meet together, they become a column just like this in the photo.

There is also formation that they named to a famous volcano. They called this, Mt. Vesuvius erupting.

Maddy the tour guide and our fellow spelunkers

More magnificent view

More columns

Imagine your favorite food….bacon strip

Finally, the Crystal Palace

Amazing view

The Pipe. They make different sounds.

The cave attraction was purely amazing. It has good lighting that anyone can get decent pictures inside the cave. It was like another world underneath. Marengo Cave, US National Landmark, is Indiana’s most popular natural attraction. It was worth the trip and I achieved my goal spelunking the Marengo Cave. The crystal palace tour costs USD18 per head for adults. The tour was about 40mins and was an easy access to all ages. For more information, visit their site here or call them at this phone number 1 888-702-2837.

Quick Stopover in New Hampshire

I was in Maine and the next New England state to visit was New Hampshire. Since it was already late when I left Maine, it was about 1500H and it took about almost an hour to get to New Hampshire. I only did a quick stopover in New Hampshire. I intentionally planned to visit Flume Gorge due to the fact that it was advertised beautifully in the web. But due to time constraints, I ended up visiting Manchester, New Hampshire instead.

Flume Gorge in Lincoln, New Hamphsire cr: NewEngland.com

I arrived in Manchester around 1600H and searched the internet for any sights that is open late. I found this park and just decided to take a peek. I was in Crystal Lake Park.

Crystal Lake Park in Manchester, New Hampshire

Crystal Lake Park is a recreation site with a natural pond for swimming, boating, fishing and picnicking with a playground. It is near Bodwell Road and Corning Road in south of Manchester. The lake is classified as a warmwater fishery with observed fishes such as smallmouth and largemouth basses, black crappie, brown bullhead, and chained pickerel.

Crystal Lake

Fishing in the Lake

Playground

Park Hall

Houses near the lake

I stayed in the Lake Park about 45 minutes and when I left, I was not contented of my brief stay in the state so, I ended up going to the mall. The mall was just about 10 minutes from the park. I got to the Mall of New Hampshire at 1925H.

The Mall of New Hampshire

The Mall of New Hampshire is a shopping mall located in the Lower South Willow neighborhood of Manchester. It has major anchoring stores like Macy’s, JCPenney, Old Navy, Sears and Best Buy. The mall has over 120 stores with large food court and is the third largest mall in the state. It was spacious and I got my souvenir made since I can’t go to the nearest souvenir shop.

Directions to Macy’s, JCPenney and Sears

Shoppers resting

My whole trip in New Hampshire was brief but I was still able to do some quick sightseeing even though I didn’t get to see the tourist attractions of the state. One of these days, I’ll be back and I will make sure to visit Flume Gorge and other beautiful spots of New Hampshire.

Get Up Grand Turk!

The Caribbean has been hit twice with hurricanes this year 2017. That doesn’t exclude this archipelago in the Caribbean, the Turks and Caicos Islands. I was in Turks and Caicos Islands mid November and I saw how the capital of the archipelago territory, Grand Turk, devastated by hurricane after hurricane. It was so heartbreaking that the people of Grand Turk were trying to make ends meet. But I saw the resilience of the Turks and Caicos islanders and I’m here as a traveler helping them in a way boosting tourism in the land. With this trip, all I can say is, Get up Grand Turk!

I was in a Caribbean cruise and Turks and Caicos Islands was one of the destinations we had on that voyage. I never heard of this territory before but I am a person who loves to indulge in an adventure and before I left for my cruise, I did a research and added the territory on my list of places to visit. When I woke up in the morning and the cruise ship was already docked in the port of Grand Turk, I was hyped to head out and to explore the place.caribbean

Grand Turk shoreline

Turks and Caicos Islands or TCI for short are British Overseas Territory consisting of larger Caicos islands and smaller Turks islands. These group of tropical islands are primarily known for tourism and as an offshore financial center. The TCI lie southeast of the Bahamas and north of the island of Hispaniola (Haiti and Dominican Republic).

When I got off of to the shore of Grand Turk, it was lively with live shows going on. I would have never thought that the place has been hit by hurricanes if I didn’t go out of the Grand Turk Cruise Center. When I travel, I always make sure to do some exploring instead of just staying in the hotel. I took the best of Grand Turk excursion because on the brochure, it showcased the old places and the top tourist destinations of the land. All guests were brought to these touristy areas. These locations were;

1. Grand Turk Salt Salinas

Damaged Grand Turk Salt Salinas

Salinas are everywhere in Grand Turk since Grand Turk was one of the three islands of the TCI developed to produce salt. Development of Salinas for salt production began sometime in the early 1700s when the British colonials in Bermuda recognized potentials of the shallow ponds in the Turks and Caicos. Inlet connections to the ocean were made to feed the Salinas with sluice gates to control water movement. Grand Turk Salt Salinas has seen more development than Salt Cay and South Caicos. But due to recent devastation when the hurricanes hit the land, the borders of the salt Salinas were been damaged making the flow of the water exceeds to even side walk and main streets.

2. St. Mary’s Anglican Church

St. Mary’s Anglican Church

Infront of the church

Inside the church

The colonial beachfront St. Mary’s Anglican Church in Cockburn Town is one of the stops in our excursion too. Many of the island’s churches were built during golden age of sea salt production in the early to mid ’80s. The most beautiful thing about this church is it is located infront of the finest sand beach of the land.

3. Grand Turk beaches and shores

Grand Turk shores and beaches

The whole time we were touring around Grand Turk, I have noticed its beautiful and finest sand beaches and shores. The water was so clear that you can see the bottom of the sea. Since they are known as a tourist destination, Turks and Caicos islanders used this advantage by putting up sea activities such as swim with the turtles, snorkeling, jet skiing,  and more.

4. Grand Turk Historic Lighthouse

Grand Turk Historic Lighthouse

Zip lining in between cliffs

View of the cliff

The shallow water of Grand Turk

It is a lighthouse located on the lighthouse road on the coast of Grand Turk. It is situated on a small limestone hill overlooking the shallow reef that extends from the northern end of the island. The 60-foot tall structure was completed by a British architect in 1852 to alert sailors of the shallow reef. Today, the lighthouse and lighthouse keeper’s house are a historic site protected by the National Trust. The lighthouse has donkey trails to the beach. Mangrove trees can be found also anywhere on the coast nearby helping prevent soil erosion.

The whole time I was in Grand Turk, I found how strong the locals are. They only need opportunity to get back on their feet to live life normal again. I may have a small reader community but somehow I did something to open the eyes of the outside world that people in Grand Turk needs a helping hand. Since their primary way of getting money is thru tourism, travelers can try and visit TCI and able to assist in getting up, Grand Turk.

Here is my vlog on Turks and Caicos Islands few months after it got hit by hurricane after hurricane.