Cartagena is a port city on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. The walled Old Town, founded in the 16th century, has squares, cobblestone streets and colorful colonial buildings. It was a South American stop on our Caribbean and American cruise. During the fabulous sail into port my head was full of Pablo Escobar and his drug charged career. This was soon forgotten when we hit the streets of the Cartagena, the Colombian capital. A riot of colour and noise filled the senses and left me reeling. The atmosphere was electric, the weather hot and sultry. My only regret for this beautiful and vibrant city was that I didn’t buy an emerald!
Cartagena port oasis, the sustainable zoo, is located on the Cartagena cruise port grounds. It is a government initiative showcasing a variety of the country’s natural resources and Colombia’s desire for a sustainable environment. The animals are not ‘wild’ as such, but many- the monkeys and parrots- appear to be free to come and go. Entry is free- you just walk through the zoo out of the port. The Cartagena port oasis initiative won the Organisation of American States’ First America’s Maritime Award in the category of Sustainable Tourist Destination Port.
The port is fun and informative and a fabulous surprise.
And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
In Englands green & pleasant land. William Blake, ‘Jerusalem’.
We had a fabulous, fun filled day shooting this.
For a real glimpse into the daily life and culture of Costa Rica go to Puerto Limón with its strong Afro Caribbean culture.
It is an important bustling port city and has a long and interesting history dating all the way back to 1502 when Columbus landed at this port while exploring the New World.
We had fun exploring the city and wandering the slightly run down streets before making our way over to Grape Island seen here from the port.
The famous Carpet Gardens are the centrepiece of Eastbourne’s Promenade with vibrant displays of bedding plants and special planting features. It was around 1904 that they first appeared on the Grand Parade near the pier. It is not known who first thought of adorning the sea front with some such a gorgeous display of horticulture but Eastbourne Borough Council do a fantastic job in creating year round displays to reflect the seasons.
Above is an early postcard of the gardens. Make a future date to come and see them how they are now in our beautiful town.
St John, Antigua was our next port of call and we hired a jeep off of a friend on the island. Antigua is famous for it’s cricket and one of first stops was The Sir Viv Richards Cricket Stadium, named after local boy and hotshot batsman Sir Vivian Richards. Fast bowlers Andy Roberts and Curtly Ambrose also hail from Antigua.
We then moved onto Half Moon Bay in the Parish of Saint Philip. This crescent shaped bay is just one of Antigua’s stunning beaches (there are 365, one for each day of the year). It rests on the south eastern coast, facing the Atlantic and is almost a mile long, with amazing surf and calm turquoise seas.
After a drive around St John, we tucked into some tropical ice creams at Tropical Time Out Ice Cream Parlour and Deli. The ice cream is made fresh to serve with a whole host of flavours include pistachio, passion fruit sherbet, bubble gum, birthday cake and caramel crunch, to name but a few.
We have been to Antigua a few times and it never fails to delight. The island is beautiful and the locals friendly. The Caribbean cruise season is sadly nearly over now, sadly cut short this year with the corona virus issues, but hopefully we will return again winter 2020.
Grenada was next on our Island Hopping travels.
What is it about this island
That makes it to all paradise?
Is it the people, plants, places
That bring smiles to all faces,
And when on parting, tears to eyes
That venture into this Heaven
On Earth land? Grenada, Spice Isle!
My Sweet Grenada by Leslie Alexis
Oranjestad, Aruba was the next island on our Caribbean Island hopping travels. Here we hired an ATV to get around: Pardo Motorcycle Rental. $90 US for a half day. No website, but they hang around the port entrance in Aruba. Vehicle was a bit old and battered but it did the job.
We made our way over to the northwestern tip of the island, to Aruba’s California Dunes and Lighthouse- local name.Hudishibana
Moving away from the lighthouse we hit the dunes for a bit of off-roading- windswept with abandoned, albeit colourful, buildings scattered around, the dunes feel a bit wild and bleak.
Aruba is a beautiful little island boasting gorgeous weather, fabulous beaches and an ATV in the Outback was a fun way to spend an afternoon.
The wonderful Cuban government gave the Braemar ship a safe haven and a flight passage home. I had been on the ship for five amazing weeks. The first two we island hopped the Eastern Caribbean The next two we island hopped the Western Caribbean and also visited Central and Southern America. We had a few issues and port refusal entries on the way due to Covid-19 on the ship but our real problems began trying to get flights home. No port would accept the ship to allow us to disembark and fly home. After nine days at sea Cuba came to our rescue and what an amazing country it is. We left under police escort, a barrage of press photographers and roads lined with police and curious locals filming our journey, waving- many with their faces covered.
On our coach seats there was a touching gift from the Cuban Government that made me smile- so kind.
The drive to the airport revealed a rural and stunning country. I truly felt I had gone back in time. Cars were old and battered, looking like they were from the sixties or seventies. There were people on horseback and horse and carts, motorbikes and cycles. It was a privilege to visit. I had already planned to visit Cuba later in the year and this tantalising glimpse has made me more determined to return.
And look at this magnificent old plane: sitting on the side of a runway.
To conclude this post we arrived at the airport in convoy still. Security was a scanner in a camouflage tent. Then back in the coach to the plane. Again to a whole load of media attention.
Finally into the air to a stunning Cuban Sunset.
Havana! I have fallen in love with you. I won’t be long returning once all this world madness has subsided.
Not only is Bonaire beautiful, it has an interesting socio-political history in the salt ponds and slave huts. The salt ponds were where the salt, one of Bonaire’s most important export products was collected to then be shipped abroad.
The pink water at the salt ponds comes from the sea water, being very transparent and reflecting the color of the salt ponds’ base- cell membranes, which contain carotenoid pigments. It is these that give the salt crystallisers the pink-red colour which are reflected in the water.
The slave huts, constructed in 1850 during the slave time , served as camping facilities for slaves working in the salt ponds. They were used as sleeping quarters and a place to put away the personal belongings of the working teams.
Judging from the modern graffiti, there are still a few political issues on the island.
Bonaire is one of the ABC Netherland Caribbean islands, the other two being Aruba and Curacao. One of the best and cheapest ways to see the island is by scooter. We hired ours through Scooters Bonaire in Kralendijk:
Price was $50 US for a days hire, including a full tank of petrol and insurance. There were no hidden costs- special deals for cruise ships. Helmets are now compulsory in Bonaire.
All set, we hit the open road.
We covered the beaches, the salt ponds and slave huts, restaurants and shops. It is a fabulous island.
To quote George Ezra we were ‘riding shotgun in the hot sun’ seeing Bonaire in style. Ready now to move on to Aruba and Curacao.
Had a cruise stop at Tobago, Trinidad and Tobago a couple of weeks ago. We took an independent trip up to the Argyle Waterfall, a famous waterfall near Tobago with a 3-level drop of 54m into a series of pools surrounded by jungle.
It was a fabulous walk through the jungle up to the waterfall, then a climb up the different stages of the falls and a swim in the top two pools.
Definitely one of a Top Ten Tobago must do. It was $10 US entry without a guide and a minibus cost approximately $120 US return. between ten of us.
MS Braemar was docked on Sugar Berth in Bridgetown. Sugar cane cultivation in Barbados began in the seventeenth century. Initially, rum was produced but by 1642, sugar was the focus of the industry. Barbados was divided into large plantation estates which replaced the small holdings of the early English settlers as the wealthy planters pushed out the poorer.To work the plantations, black Africans were imported. After 1750 the plantations were owned by absentee landlords living in Britain and operated by hired managers. The slave trade ceased in 1807 and slaves were emancipated in 1834.
On the dock there is still the remains of the machinery used to load the sugar cane onto the ships for exporting.
Stranded in the Caribbean Sea unable to dock, but I ain’t complaining.
#MS Braemar. #floating the Caribbean #stranded at sea #Dominican Republic