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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TRAVELIRVANA’S TOP 7 MUST SEE AND DO IN THE BAHAMAS

God said the color “blue” is just not quite good enough for us here on earth and so on the 8th day he created The Bahamas. Here the color spectrum includes blues never seen by me before and I’ve been to the Maldives, Zanzibar and Belize so that is saying a lot! Here you get to swim in the divine – the water of the Gods themselves. It is so clear near the beaches you can see iridescent fish with the naked eye.  Admittedly, the Maldives is either equal to The Bahamas or a very close second.

WHERE TO STAY IN NASSAU?

There are many ways to enjoy the hundreds of islands in The Bahamas but you will pay for this privilege unless you stay away from Tourist Highway also known by me as America’s Playpen i.e. the resorts. My choice, and I would make it over and over again, is BahaSea. It’s peaceful and relaxing here. Read a book in the hammock or lay out on the balcony, go for a delightful swim just down what seems like your very own steps to another world and while there, witness Nelly, her daughter and Akeem ready to step up and help you in anyway they can.

Shop for groceries down the street and cook your own culinary feasts in the kitchens provided for your use at BahaSea or stop at Marcos Pizza and enjoy probably one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had (the secret is in the crust this time not the sauce although that was delightful too); however, be wary of the cost of certain groceries i.e. a bag of pistachios costs $24 USD in Nassau. Although groceries can be expensive here too, they are certainly cheaper than any food you would buy at the resorts by a VERY long shot.

Venture by public bus safely to downtown Nassau or anywhere on New Providence Island for a mere $1.25 each way because the taxis are not affordable here. This way you can perhaps afford to catch a quick day trip to Exuma Cay and swim with the pigs or, if your budget won’t allow it, Akeem at BahaSea will let you swim with his two piggies.  Also, bless yourself with a trip to Eleuthera and Harbour Island to swim with celebrities if you prefer them to pigs or try dolphins or sharks – it’s all here in The Bahamas  – a bucket list trip for anyone I assure you.

BELOW IS A QUICK LIST OF MY TOP 7 SEVEN THINGS FOR A FIRST TIMER IN THE BAHAMAS:

1. Swimming with the pigs in Exuma.

2. Glass bridge in Eleuthera.

Photo from www.bahamas.com

3.  Pink sand in Harbour Island.

Photo from the Travel Channel

4. Dolphins at Atlantis.

5. Day at the beach in Bahamar.

6. Conch salad, Sky Juice and junkanoo dancing at Arawak Cay a/k/a Fish Fry.

7. The Queens Staircase in Nassau.

If you have any questions or can add something about The Bahamas, I would love to hear from you so submit same via the form below. Then go unlock the Travelirvana in you.

Semuc Champey, Guatemala: Day 5

 

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If you have that little devil inside of you whose thirst for adrenaline and adventure must be quenched, then today is a day for you

If you have an incessant little angel inside of you, seeking tranquility, beauty and perhaps some rest for your body, mind and soul then today is a day for you.

If you have both, well lucky you because this will be one of your favorite travel days ever. It is in the top five for me!

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I awoke to the sound of birds singing and a glorious sunrise from my outdoor bunk bed at Utopia in the mountains of Semuc Champey, Guatemala.  Had breakfast overlooking none other than the epitome of tranquility. The theme, however, for the day was “Uno, dos, tres” as I must have repeated these 3 words today more than ever prior to jump uno, jump dos, jump tres and so on and by the end of the day I wasn’t certain whether today ranked uno, dos or tres in the best days of my journey thus far.  Indiana Jones himself would have been jealous.

 

We (Sam, Stephanie, Suzy, Clemence, Tomas and I) started with a 45 minute hike to Maria’s restaurant for none other than a swing from a platform to flying in the air and jumping into the river – Jump Uno. Suzy and I then proceeded to enter -with nothing other than a candle – a cave where we swam and climbed in pitch blackness. Jump Dos at the end of the cave, while scary, had nothing on Jump Tres because in Jump 2 our guide lit up the pool of blackness below with a headlamp while at Jump 3 (which was several meters higher) he decided to go first leaving me to jump with no light whatsoever. In a situation like this all you’ve got is one way down and the courage to murmur uno, dos, tres before following suit 😉 Do this. No matter what. There is nothing in this world more liberating. Jump Cuatro was the seated swing outside the cave. Again, uno, dos, tres and swing, jump, fly.

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We went from high flying adventure to rest and relaxation in the radiance of the cerulean infinity pools before tubing through the sometimes calm and sometimes raging rapids and ended our ride right at the door of Utopia.

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Utopia is the perfect name for this hostel and even more perfect name for Semuc Champey. The 12 or more hours to get there and out of there was worth it. As I said, today is one of my favorite days of travel after 15 months and 69 countries which is saying an awful lot.

That’s all for now with a “DON’T SKIP SEMUC!” reverberating throughout my entire body.

 

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Cabo Polinio, Uruguay: Day 1

I headed to Cabo Polinio – the place where time stands still – via Rutas del Sol bus. It’s 4.5 hours and 598 Uruguayan pesos or approximately $20 USD from Montevideo and worth every minute and every penny and believe it or not even the loss of my new Go Pro Hero 5.  Yes, after saving it a mere three days ago from a Mack truck on the Paraguayan Bridge and promising we would be so “Happy Together” until we had visited all 196 countries, someone else had a different opinion. I turned my back for literally 60 seconds to meet Ines and Susanna from Spain and someone on the bus stole it. But as I said my heartbreak was short lived. God reminded me that just like everything else, the Go Pro is just a thing. It doesn’t matter. Someone clearly needed the money they would get for selling it more than I needed it and I needed a lesson on what is truly valuable and I got it in Cabo Polonio. In fact, I learned another valuable lesson in Cabo Polinio from an Italian  friend, Olivia, which goes hand in hand with the prior lesson and that is that the more things you travel with, the more insecurities you have. As such, I left a handful of really cute clothes behind for my new friends and will look yet again for yet another smaller pack moving forward as I’m clearly insecure!! Didn’t think I was but my suitcase/pack is huge. Not as big as the suitcase I carried for the first 9 months of this journey – which I lovingly call the Hulk as it was green, huge and physically abused my poor tiny frame carrying it up cobblestone steps like those in Granada, over beaches like those in Thailand and those darn train stations in Southern France with only stairs.

So you should know right off the bat that there is no place on earth like this place. You are dropped at the terminal 7km from your actual destination where you purchase a ticket forIMG_7067.JPG 300 Uruguayan pesos ($10/USD) to take a huge dual level white and red or yellow 4×4 truck to your final destination as this is all that can drive through the massive sand dunes. Ride on the top deck just because it is a little scary and a bit dangerous which inevitably means could be fun. Ten minutes or so later you enter a different world where there is no running water (only comes from wells), no electricity (the locals obtain from renewable energy sources), about 70 inhabitants, mostly wooden rustic and very colorful shacks (some adobe -the newer, more modern ones – but not to worry as new construction is now completely prohibited under the law which I’m truly grateful for).

Cabo Polinio is on a sliver of sand extending into the ocean and is surrounded by water img_6926on three sides. You will find welcoming laid back locals, a handful of horses grazing on the green grass, a beautiful white and red lighthouse which has the only steady supply of electricity and which you can climb for 20 pesos, a rocky seaside home to a colony of hundreds of lobos (sea lions), perhaps an eccentric expat or two and a eclectic few handfuls of tourists in November. Está muy tranquilo.   In the dead of summer i.e. December and January there will be many more tourists; however, less than you will find anywhere else is my guess as this place still remains mostly a secret and part of me didn’t want to tell you about it but then what kind of blogger would I be if I didn’t share.

Your first order of business will be to find accommodations. I chose Lobo Hostel because a handful of people who I met on my bus were headed there. The cost for a bed in the 8 person dorm was $18USD, 4 person dorm $21USD and your own room with a double bed in the attic is $41/USD. There are hostels that are newer and bigger for half the price but Marianna and Gaston are iconic fixtures in Cabo Polinio. Plus you will love love love that paint job. And yes Lobo Hostel has a generator if needed but put your damn phones away or you will miss the most authentic and natural experiences of your existence where the stars, moon light and the faro will guide your way in the night. Second only to the Saharan desert (perhaps even better than) is the Cabo Polinio night sky. Wishing on a falling star and constellation naming is found around the cozy campfire over a glass of wine or a beer, some mota (if you are into this), with a guitar or two, an eccentric harmonica player and, of course, your new lifelong friends which you will meet there. It is impossible not to make a connection with people in this environment where there is little, if any, interference with God and nature from the outside world and peace is the name of the game. My new friends are Susanna and Ines from Spain (students of business administration), Simon from Chile (neurosurgeon), Juan and Weather from Spain (global travelers), Olivia from Italy (child psychologist), Claudia and Caroline from Germany (mid-wives), Matio and Maya from France, Anna from Germany, Mauro from Montevideo (accountant), Manuel from Argentina (engineer) and several others from São Paulo and other nearby places. It is hard to remember and spell all of their names correctly but I will never forget them.

For longer-term stays, rent your own house. That’s what I will do when I go back. See if you can get one seaside with a balcony facing the sunset. You won’t regret it. And for groceries or other sundries, head to one of the two mercados where you will find wine, beer, water, fresh eggs and vegetables, etc. so you can make your own meal. If not, then head to Leon’s for an incredible pizza milanese and some of the best tasting papas fritas you can find. Trust me! Keep in mind that pizza in Uruguay and Argentina can be more like carne con queso con carne. In other words, instead of bread, your pizza toppings are on top of fried meat! For activities, in addition to sunbathing, swimming, walking on the beach or hiking through the forest trees, you can ride horses, fish and surf.  I just wanted to soak it all in too just be.

img_7112While I know God (or whatever you call your omnipotent being) is ubiquitous, his presence during my trek to see the sea lions, my climb to the top of the lighthouse, the sunset on the beach, the swim with the dolphins, the camaraderie over seaside meals and the sunrise strolls on the playa was certainly more palpable here than any place I’ve been since perhaps Bali and India.

Know this – you will emerge with a few mosquito or other insect bites (and in my case all over my face!), a new appreciation for the niceties in the modern world, a fervent desire to return to this special place and perhaps emerge a more enlightened man or woman…changed for the better.

That’s all for now. With love and peace from Cabo Polinio.

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.