FIFTY SHADES OF ICELAND – PART II

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder or so they say.  That may be one of the few things I agree with “they” about.  However, what if you could look at things with God’s eyes?  I think that’s what it’s like when you are in Iceland.  The beauty is so astounding and so diverse you can’t help wonder if it is the Land of the Gods.  In fact, the History Channel must have thought similarly as they send Floki via one of his handbuilt sailboats in their Vikings series to what they refer to as the “Land of the Gods” i.e. Iceland.  In this post, perhaps you can gather some modicum of what I mean about the beauty of Iceland by looking through my eyes or, rather, my Olympus camera’s viewfinder in the Fifty Shades of Iceland – Part II. If you want to see Fifty Shades of Iceland – Part I of the series click here.

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NORTHERN ICELAND

Like a royal necklace, one bedazzling jewel after another stuns your eyes as you turn another corner, climb another mountain, skirt the sea on a gravel road or bathe in the milky turquoise waters of a volcanic crater.

This is the north of Iceland where the country hugs the arctic circle, waterfalls playfully tumble down mountain gorges and rainbows leap up to meet you not to mention terrain that is referred to as Mars on Earth. I was bewitched or was that be-trolled? You never know where the little devils might find you.

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HANG TEN ON CLOUD NINE – SIARGAO ISLAND

Siargao – Surf’s Up but don’t drink the what? 

My flight left at 7:45 a.m. for Siargao so yet another 5:00 a.m. wake up call but fantastic choice as I had a really relaxing day on a very beautiful island. I splurged here spending $40 USD a night at Patrick’s on the Beach where I got an unbelievable private bungalow, my own shower, good food and my toes in the sand outside my front door not to mention an ocean of bath water temperature. Sheer perfection. Laid back.

A LESSON….

I did learn a lesson about purchases from street vendors so I’m passing it along. Everyone loves an adventure but not the kind this can bring!  BEWARE OF PURCHASING COCA COLA AND PEPSI PRODUCTS FROM A STAND ON THE STREETS. True story – what do you need to make a motorbike go? Easy: petrol. Guess how these guys store and sell petroleum products? In old plastic Coca Cola and Pepsi bottles. You just pull up to a wooden stand or shack, open the gas tank and dump it from the bottle into the tank. Take some to go for a long journey. Dare ya. In fact, forget to tell your friends that little tip I just gave you and take some “Cola” to go. (Don’t do that…I’m only joking.)  I’m certain this was not the marketing ploy both Coca Cola and Pepsi had in mind or paid billions for but could be effective depending on whether the regular or the premium gas is in your particular brand’s bottle.

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AMAZING NICARAGUA

  1. Jiquilillo

Qué bonito no hacer nada y después no hacer nada para descansar – the theme for Jiquillilo. (How nice it is to rest and after resting, to do nothing). Think seaside hammocks suspended from palm trees, coconuts in hand (coconut loco or coconut brojo – your choice….hehehe), perfect 80 degree temperatures, the latest novel you have been engrossed in and Sojo playing in the background. This was what our few days at Rancho Tranquilo was like and at a cost you won’t believe – $22 for two people or for a dorm bed $7/person. For Americans especially, you can take a 3.5 hour flight from Houston for $354 each way and then you can splurge a little on the $14 massage or $30 to surf all day.

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Little Corn Island, Nicaragua

“It’s another day for you and me in paradise” by Phil Collins is the theme for the day, for the week and perhaps longer as I just might have to buy/build a place here. If you make it to Nicaragua, you have to visit Little Corn Island, which is, without a doubt, the perfect balance of all things you want in an island getaway. “Idyllic” is the best word to describe it. The hardened sand trails through the jungle filled with palm trees, flowers I haven’t seen before and other foliage lead to the oceanic splendor of Caribbean greens and blues (and yes, you get all the greens and blues on Little Corn depending on what side of the island you are on). There are times when walking alone during the day that you feel like you are on a deserted island playing a character in the hit series Lost. I feel safer here than anywhere I’ve been, which allows for a little running away of the imagination while trying to find your casita tucked away in the garden of trees in the pitch black of night.

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TURKS AND CAICOS

Quick lunch and a Red Bull with one of the nicest people – Shakira (not that one lol)  – in Turks and Caicos a/k/a TIC before catching an 18 passenger prop plane to Country 84 – Dominican Republic – with IntercaribbeanTurks and Caicos doesn’t count as an independent country on my RTW “list” but it counts on every other list i.e. it gets a big OLE WOW. Just take a half hour prop plane ride out of TIC to wherever or even back to TIC so you can see an unimaginable spectrum of the color blue.

Below is a half hour out by plane. Look at the colors change!!!

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Caye Caulker, Belize: Day 1

At 4:00 a.m., I took the bus for 150 quetzales from Flores to Belize City and for another 150 the Belize ferry to Caye Caulker (pronounced Key Caulker I learned at the border) where the carribean waters of cerulean blue and turquoise are Unbelizeable! There are 3 roads on the island – Front Road, Back Road and you guessed it Middle Road. Golf carts and bicycles and feet are your forms of transportation. And where do you want to go in this heat? Straight to the ocean. Here in the center of the island there is infrastructure but few trees unlike Little Corn, Nicaragua so be prepared to roast.  In fact, my last sunburn abroad was my first one. What I mean is when I started my journey 15 months ago in Sri Lanka, my skin burned something awful as it was my first time out there in coastal towns and on beaches in a very long time but in Belize my already dark skin after 15 months of traveling burned yet again! That’s how hot the sun is in Belize.

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After settling in at Juan in a Million Hostel, I went to Auntie’s Restaurant for pollo y arroz that will knock your socks off assuming you were wearing them which, of course, you would never do in this sweltering heat. (Nothing like Huay, Vietnam though. In Huay, I was sopping wet within 5 mins of leaving my hotel room and I asked the girl at the hotel – What is the temperature? She said in perfect English “It is unseasonably hot today. It’s 48 degrees Celsius.” I asked her what is it normally this time of year and she said 46! After I picked myself up off the floor, I eventually stopped laughing at her nonchalance about 46-48 degree weather! (Celsius that is!)

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After a quick (and free) short boat ride to Cocoa Beach – the best beach in Caye Caulker – and a refreshing swim in the ocean, I returned to my hostel (only 25 quetzales a night by the way) and there I met one of my favorite couples of all time – Ebba and Johannes from Sweden. Interestingly my other 3 favorite couples in my travels are from the same area! One from Sweden, one from Finland and one from the Netherlands. Not to take away from my other new friends in Belize – Morton from Denmark and Laura and Miles from the U.K.

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We all went out to Auntie’s again for dinner as it was THAT great and then went to the sports bar on Front Street  to hear the drummers play live and to learn how to punta. Punta you ask? Oh yeah. It is very popular both on mainland Central America and the Creoles love it on the islands. As foolish as I looked doing it, it was a blast. The whole night was but largely because of the non-stop laughter and story telling. Ebba and Johannesburg (that’s what I call him) gave me the perfect itinerary for my trip to Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador. I gave Johannesburg the trick to winning Ebba over if she ever got mad at him 😉 I told him to whisper the name of the capital city in Honduras – Tegucigalpa – in her ear. If you don’t believe me, just try it on your significant other! It is a very sexy word and it totally worked on me 😉

That’s all for now from Unbelizeable!

 

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Day 1

And then there was light!! The sunshine radiated from the sky over Rio today lifting my spirits along with everyone’s around me and so off to the beach a/k/a Zona Azul in Leblon we went where the beautiful people in Brazilian bikinis meet the voracious ocean tides and where the surf was most definitely up and the caipirinhas most definitely were going down. I can’t decide whether I was more taken by the view of the Rio coastline or more taken (quite literally) by the enormous tides as on two separate occasions the tide came so far up the beach that it swallowed me, all my things and all the other beach goers in one mouthful. Thank goodness for all my waterproof camera equipment (thanks Go Pro) and somewhat waterproof pack (thanks REI and Osprey) as all was salvaged! In addition to watching out for overly aggressive tides caused in part by last night’s Super Moon I’m sure, one must be wary of the aggressive thievery that occurs with great occasion here in Brazil. Just a quick reminder to be cautious and if you must leave your stuff, leave it with a family sitting nearby on the beach to watch over before heading for a swim.

Following the dance of death which I laughingly refer to as my swim in the ocean today, I spent hours attempting to get the sand out of my clothes, my hair and, of course, my girly parts so I could get dressed for my next dance at the highly popular local samba dance club in Lapa appropriately named Rio Scenarium. Lapa is where Rio’s real nightlife is I’m told not in the more affluent areas of Leblon, Ipanema and Copacabana at least for the locals. Lapa is a well known area for samba dancing, drinking and other hedonistic chicanery; however, while a lovely evening, it was a quiet one because of the Brazilian holiday Proclamaçāo da República which commemorates the day when Brazil’s second emperor, Dom Pedro II, was removed from power on November 15, 1889 and the United States of Brazil was declared by Field Marshall Deodora da Fonseca. Unlike Independence Day in America though, it was more a day of rest from the office for Brazilians rather than a day of celebration as other than the Guns N’ Roses concert here in Rio, it was primarily dead in Lapa tonight and in Copacabana at Mud Bugs where I later met, Martin -the friend I made while traveling in Dubrovnik this summer. We had a few laughs when, among other things, I taught Martin about the amazing Uber app and Martin exclaimed “oh it’s like Tinder but for cabs”.

So beaches and Brazilian bathing suits in Rio (I donned one as well…when in Rome…) on a beautiful day and samba and far away friends on a beautiful night, what more could one ask for? How about hand gliding? Yes! Great idea! That is tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. so off to bed I go my friends. Lots of love and liberty on Republic Day from Rio.