Snorkeling at Nusa Penida

Nusa Penida

My retreat package doesn’t include any weekend activities so I do a snorkeling excursion to Nusa Penida with a couple other girls from the retreat.

We have to be up at 6 am for our car ride to the ferry but I wake at 3 am for no reason. I lie in bed for about an hour trying to sleep then eventually turn the lights on to catch up on some research. After about fifteen minutes I start hearing buzzing from a very large flying bug. It is annoying but really likes the light. I’ve got the mosquito canopy so I am sort of safe for now. I soon hear more buzzing. It is almost like a bunch of eggs have hatched many of these things in my room. I count 6 during one count. It is time for me to get ready and they are everywhere: One on my backpack, One one the shirt I want to wear. They are scary looking and I have no idea if they bite or sting. I open my door hoping they will fly out with no luck. I eventually manage to get all I need for today. I lock my room and decide to deal with it when I get back. Fortunately when I return that night only one is left and he just hangs out at the light so I leave him alone.

Our driver picks us up and takes us to the ferry that will take us to the island of Nusa Penida, where we be snorkeling today. The traffic is terrible trying to get to the ferry. Our driver is going to be with us all day. He parks his car and directs us to the ferry. I am glad he is there because all the ferries look alike to me and I would never know which one to get on. Our guide sits in the back of the ferry but us three girls pick out a row. I grab the window seat so I can have the breeze but offer it to the girl in our group that gets sea sick. She refuses but I know her pain. I have taken my medicine so I should be ok for the ride no matter where I sit. Traveling out for a day at Nusa Penida is a crapshoot this time of year. It is the rainy season so the waters can be uncomfortably choppy if the weather is bad. Fortunately rain isn’t expected until later today so we seem safe.

The ferry ride is about an hour. We can not only see Nusa Penida in the distance but we also see a mountain. We try to determine which mountain it is. We get to the island and the boat backs up to the shore. We are not getting off at a pier; the way off is through the back and into the water. Because I am short and clumsy I have a slight fall exiting the boat and end up getting wet in the lower half of my body. One can stay on this island overnight but thank goodness I am not trying to haul my heavy backpack off this boat. I am sure all my things would end up getting soaked.

Our guide takes us to the snorkeling shop where we try on fins and pick out our lunch choice. We are to get our other equipment on the boat. We are waiting around a long time to start, it appears they want a larger group. I use this opportunity to apply sunscreen.

Waiting for more people

Our main guide tells us he will meet us later and we go to board the boat. Luckily the group isn’t too large where the boast is overly crowded. The water is beautiful. We use the opportunity to take a few pictures before snorkeling destroys our appearance.

We have 4 stops today. The first is the furthest away Manta Bay. The guides warn us the the seas will be rough on the way there (on the boat and in the water) but the reward is that we will see a manta ray. They didn’t lie about either. I start to feel nauseous on this part of the tour even though I had my motion sickness medicine this morning. The boat is rocked around. When we enter the water to snorkel it isn’t much better. The waves cause me to swallow what seems like gallons of sea water. I am constantly emptying out my breathing tube (no I don’t know how to “blow” it all out like the professionals). There isn’t much to see at this location since the fish are scarce and the coral isn’t impressive. At some point when I am underwater I look over and a Manta Ray that’s diameter is longer than me comes swimming toward me. It is partially scary and partially amazing. He kind of looks like he is smiling at me. He glides by without touching me. I pop my head up and tell my friend to go look down right away so she gets to see it as well. Unfortunately there are no photos of this event. We get back on the boat soon after.

The second stop is probably my least favorite, Crystal Bay. The beach area looks beautiful and we see some fish but I am not impressed.

One of the girls with me notices that some of the girls on our boat that are choosing to snorkel are not able to swim. Why someone who couldn’t swim would attend this is beyond me but what happens is that they hang out in their life jackets and hold on to this raft and scream and monopolize the fish guides the entire time with their drama. They also get the best photos from the guide as evident at the end when our trip photos are sent to us all.

Our next stop, Gamat Bay, is the most impressive so far if you ignore the Manta Ray from the first stop. You can see some nice coral here that hasn’t been bleached out. The fish are plentiful. The guide gives me some bread so I have a cheat with the photo moments. I think this is my favorite of the day so far.

The tour advertised online three stops but we have four today. I am getting tired of getting in and out of the boat and the previous stop is good so I think about skipping this stop. In this stop, the Wall, we are told that we swim up to the wall and let the current take us down to view all the good stuff. I decide to go in. Again they did not lie. This is a tie with the third stop of which is best. There is plenty of coral to see as well as colorful fish, with not much physical effort. I am glad I got off the boat.

We head back to shore after this. My only complaint about this tour is the last time I snorkeled in coral areas I not only got some photos of myself but also some photos of interesting fish and coral taken by the underwater photographer. There were no such photos such as these. I would have at least liked photo proof of the manta ray because he was so dang scary and cute at the same time.

When we get to shore our guide meets us along with another gentlemen who I guess is the driver on the island since we didn’t bring a car with us. They take us to a resort for our lunch.

We are directed to a shower to use that looks kind of like a bidet hose and not very sanitary so we all decided to stay drenched in seawater. In retrospect this should have been a red flag. There is a pool nearby and one group of girls jumps in while we wait for our pre-ordered food. It takes a while. My chicken curry comes out with a plate of rice and some raw vegetables. The curry is more like a chicken soup, flavorless, but I eat it anyway. I am smart enough to not eat the raw vegetables but as you will find out later I am not sure it made much of a difference.

We get back in the car and drive for a while. We end up at the viewing area called Kelingking Beach. The beach is actually a 45 minute hike down the stairs but we are not doing that. We are here for the photo opportunity. The place is a madhouse with “models” and tour groups. If you have been following my travels for a few years you will hear me complain constantly about influencers or instagrammers and how they are totally destroying travel. Today we contributed to that just a little bit. If I was on my own I would have taken one look at the crowd and said see ya but our driver was very eager to take us to the best places to take pictures and somehow he knew how to avoid the long lines. I still didn’t like 50% of my photos because I have body image issues but I appreciate what he was trying to do. The only part I didn’t like is when he had us practically running uphill, in our sandals to get to another spot. When we had a moment to enjoy it was a great view though. We made good time because it starts storming as we are leaving. That driver deserves a tip for rushing us.

We then drive down broken road, which is a REALLY broken road, to broken beach. At that location we see the arch from earlier when we were snorkeling. We also see the Angel’s Billabong that is an interesting rock formation. We rest here for a few minutes then start heading back toward the ferry.

We have to hop back into the water to get on the ferry and it is once again very awkward for me. My bottom half gets wet because I am short and clumsy. Also we are fighting the waves while trying to step in onto a swaying ferry. The ferry takes us back to the main land of Bali and then the van back to our retreat.

Swim out to the ferry for us short people

We decide to order dinner out as a group because there is an order minimum anyway. I order a so-so pizza and mango sticky rice. Soon it is bedtime because I am exhausted from the day’s activities. I sleep well … until I don’t. I have some nightmares about high school – very bizarre.

Bali Belly Strikes Again

It is Sunday I don’t set an alarm. The only thing I have scheduled is a 9 am massage today so I do my version of sleeping in. My finger is still weird and I don’t feel the best. It seems like that pizza last night has not agreed with my stomach. It feels a little like a hangover with out the drinking. I bravely try breakfast.

I find it really hard to eat. I know I need to eat but food seems disgusting at this point. I do as well as I can then I excuse myself because I am increasingly nauseous. I walk up the stairs and realize I am not going to make it to my room. I throw up my entire breakfast all over the beautiful lawn of the retreat. Luckily there is a hose there that is used by the surfers. I try to hose away evidence of my mess but it is too much and more is coming so I warn the guys who take care of the facility, apologize and run to my room for more.

I think I have it all out of my system for now. I have no idea what I am doing for lunch but I decide to make my morning massage appointment. There can’t possibly be anything left in my stomach. As the day progresses so does my symptoms. I sleep most of the day and spend a good amount of awake time in the bathroom. I officially have Bali belly. I have had this before last time I was on the island. It is not fun but sometimes it can clear up in a day or so. There is not much I can eat so I try to wait it out.

Hopefully this is a 24 hour thing and I feel better tomorrow.

Diet of champions

Cartagena: Getsemani

It is M’s first full day in Cartagena with me. We have booked a cruise to the Rosario Islands. We could have traveled directly to an island to do a day of relaxing on the beach but from reviews it doesn’t seem like a relaxing option due to beach vendors constantly bothering you.

There are a couple different choices for a day cruise ranging from packed-like-sardines in a speedboat to a luxury yacht cruise. The speedboat option seems like it could be fun but we both agree we would prefer the more laid back (though more expensive) catamaran tour.

There is an early start of 8:00 for our tour. We leave early to ensure we arrive in time.

Morning walk to our boat tour

One we arrive we wait at the marina for quite a while.

Finally our boat arrives. It is a lovely sight to see.

After arrival we still wait to board. Eventually the staff announces that they are cancelling the cruise for the day due to strong winds at sea. We are disappointed.

Luckily we can reschedule in a couple days. There is already a line of people waiting for refunds to be processed or to book another day. They let us onto the boat to wait in comfort which is great because we get to use the very clean bathroom downstairs. M has a great idea of getting cheap morning beers from one of the vendors on the dock. It didn’t take much for her to talk me into one as well. We sip our beers while we wait our turn to rebook.

We have rebooked and the day is still early. We have a free day we did not plan for. We head from the marina area and decide to explore town a bit, stopping first in a nearby museum.

The museum we stop at is the Museo Naval del Caribe, the Museum of the Colombian Navy.

All the exhibits are in Spanish but we understand enough to get an idea of the history. The exhibits are heavy on the military and the sea. We had some playtime in a submarine for a bit.

Side Note: M and I combined have a pretty good grasp on Spanish. We seem to fill in each others gaps well. What she doesn’t remember I remember and vice-versa. It gives me a bit more confidence.

After the museum we decide to check out the funky neighborhood of Getsemani. Fortunately it is in walking distance so no taxi is necessary.

We pass through some more charming streets on the way and stop for arepas.

Narrow walkways

We stop at Quero Arepa for an arepa snack.

Sloth at Parque Del Centenario

We walk past Parque Del Centenario where it is said you can see monkeys but we instead find a sloth on a tree. He is snacking on some tree fruits. Some people are trying to feed him and pet him but we respectfully keep our distance.


We have arrived in Getsemani. The neighborhood of Getsemani is funky and colorful. We originally considered staying in his neighborhood but opted to be closer to the tourist sites. If I am ever to return I am definitely staying in Getsemani. I really like the vibe.

I see lots of street art in many different cities but it never seems to get old.

Flags hang from above, in this case flags from different countries.

We watch an artist at work.

Today is about walking, eating and drinking. We stop to try local fried foods at a hipster restaurant.

Cháchara restaurant
empanada sampler

We stop for food once again, this time to split a small pizza.

We end up down a narrow and colorful street shaded by colorful umbrellas.

We are almost out of Getsemani but not before we stop at a corner bar that sells sushi and beer. We order only beer.

Once back in the tourist area we climb the fortification walls to catch the sunset.

After dark I get to try the Russian themed bar near the apartment. We decided to test our luck and have a Moscow Mule at the KGB Bar. Back in the USSR!

Keeping the theme of Soviet area relics we head next to my happy place at Cuba 1940. We don’t stay for the band tonight but we will be back.

As we walk back to the apartment we peak into a service at a beautiful church.

Even though things did not go as planned our day ended up pretty great.

Tomorrow we head on a trip a little out of town to see the pink sea. Hopefully it is the perfect pink color.

Heading to Wellington

Today I am crossing over to the North Island of New Zealand.

The transportation mode of choice is the ferry. I still have my campervan so I pay for a special ticket to transfer my car as well.

I arrive very early but it ended up being futile because we wait quite a while until the ferry arrives, in fact it is actually running late today.

Finally the cars are let on. I am directed to park. I am supposed to turn off some sort of security alarm on my van but I can’t figure it out. I hope it goes ok anyway.

I lock up my van and bring some things to occupy me during the ride (3.5 hours). I explore the ferry a bit then find a nice and quiet place to hang out inside for my ride. I do order lunch on board but it isn’t that spectacular to write about.

Once I exit the ferry in Wellington it doesn’t take me long to drive to my hotel for the next couple nights, Capital View Motor Inn Motel. This is a planned hotel stay to break up my van nights (I will have more unplanned hotel stays as you will see later).

The hotel room is decent and has a kitchen which I don’t get to use too much except for breakfast and such. My only concern is parking my campervan. Since the hotel is in the city, I knew to plan in advance for this by asking the hotel if they had a space that would hold my van. They reserved a spot for me but it is very small. Fortunately I am able to get the van in there and squeeze my body out past the brick wall on one side (It would have been much easier if the car on the other side gave me more space). It is stressful but all is well. I don’t plan on moving it the next couple days.

I don’t have much time to settle in since I made a reservation at Weta Workshop this afternoon. I only recently before my trip even learned about Weta Workshop. Weta is the group of artists that craft all kinds of imaginative character renderings – such as Lord of the Rings. One can book a tour to see their facility.

While waiting for my tour to begin I look around the shop.

The tour takes us to a couple different rooms, each talking about another area of design. One has posters from all the movies and shows the group has worked on. The resume is impressive.

Most of the tour did not allow photos but we did come to a section where we were introduced to an artist and his construction methods; we were allowed to take photos in that room.

I ended up booking a second tour, not knowing what the second tour actually was. It ended up being a tour of the Thunderbird’s miniature sets. I have never seen the show but it is very interesting how the sets are designed and filmed.

The set designers use everyday things in the construction of the sets.

After my visit I take an uber back into the main city area to order dinner.

I end up at an outdoor cafe where I get my Haloumi fix once more – Southern Cross Garden Bar Restaurant.

Green pea falafel patty, shredded cos, Zany Zeus halloumi, beetroot relish, avocado dressing & spring onion

It is still early so I head down to HeyDay Beer Co to try a flight.

Their sample pours seem kind of large. I feel like I am getting a good deal.

After that it is back to the hotel for the evening.


Note about my postings about my sabbatical….

I have been slowly trying to outpace the calendar when trying to document my travels. So far I’ve kept all my travel posts related to travel less than a year ago. As the new year begins I get closer and closer to that self-imposed marker when I am talking about travel that is more than a year ago.

I had high hopes on documenting my adventures as I went but mostly failed on this subject; with the exception of posts like these that are generated from my actual thoughts and feelings at the time. These posts tend to be more detailed and also lean more about my struggles when traveling. I tend to get the urge to write down my feelings more when I am having a challenging time verses a blissful time. You might see me talk about my struggles frequently but it is not representative of the majority of my travel. I actually had a large amount of moments of awe, bliss, and amazement – I just didn’t tend to journal those feelings along the way. So here I am trying to reconstruct things from my photos and that seems to take quite a long time.

Why am I telling you all these things? I guess I want to justify why it is taking me so long to document things and to give reasons for all the “holes” in my posts where I clinically describe experiences instead of conveying actual thoughts.

Anyhoo, a new year has begun in the “current world” and I look forward to traveling once again post COVID-19.

For now enjoy my adventures in Queenstown….

I admit I came into Queenstown in a bit of a mood. I am determined to not like it; partially because the internet told me “Wanaka is better” and partially because the bumper to bumper traffic on the way into here. I also have another case of travel fatigue. I have not even done any activity to really wear me down physically – no walking tracks or such. The long travel from Milford Sound to Queenstown did me in. I have another shoulda. I should have scheduled more time in this region in general.

I arrive to the campsite and I am on a mission to finish the bagged salad and other produce that will spoil any day now. I hunker down at my campsite that is eclectically decorated and has too few bathrooms and showers in my opinion (but it has yet to be a problem so why am I complaining).

“Too few bathrooms”

I wake up with no plan for the day. I thought about a trail walk or taking the gondola up the mountain and walking down but I do none of that.

What do I do instead? I drive 5 miles to Bed bath and Beyond and Kmart to buy pillows, a blanket and a yoga mat among other things.

Why pillows?

I am a woman over 40 who is a side sleeper but has discomfort with firmer mattresses and with traveling I have new shoulder pain. Sleeping in the van with one pillow and a firm mattress has been challenging so I buy a couple of pillows to strategically place to help me sleep better. Younger people won’t get it but trust me, once your sleep is “messed with“ it affects your entire life.

I buy a blanket is because I had one bitter cold night and I have been in fear that every night will be like that. Spoiler alert – I never need the blanket after that day.

The yoga mat is because I am hopeful I will do yoga…..well at least I will do my foot stretches on my injured foot.

…..enough of the old lady talk.

I find a bowl for $2 NZD to replace the one I broke in the camper on the first day; it doesn’t match exactly but is good enough.

Back to Queenstown…

I arrive back to the campsite and wait to have my phone to 100% before walking down to the town center to try the infamous Fergburger.

If you read about Queenstown and recommendations 99% of the time they will mention trying Fergburger. From what people write about the place it seems life changing. I came in with high expectations and was subsequently disappointed. I got in the line and I guess I got lucky because I only waited ten minutes; most wait much longer. After I order I wait at the bar and decide to go ahead and eat my burger at the bar. I guess I have had my fair share of spectacular burgers in my life so I find this one only average. It has too many peppercorns for my liking and the sauce is too sweet. On top of that they over salt the fries. I wish I would have ordered one of the other interesting sounding sandwiches like the one called the Codfather.

I make up for the burger disappointment by going to the ice cream place next door. I try some interesting flavors at Mrs Ferg Gelateria.

I take my ice cream for a walk and finally start to enjoy the beautiful afternoon.

I walk down by the water and enjoy the views.

Along a path I take I see picnics and people walking a tightrope (seems to be a Queenstown pastime called slacklining).

I end up at a beach café, The Bathhouse, and order some wine at a table right on the beach. It gets warm in the sun but otherwise a perfect day to look out at the water.

After my wine I continue my walk over to a nearby park, Queenstown Gardens. I enjoy the gardens and the nice views from the penisula.

I head back toward the more busy part of town and happen upon some bagpipers.

And then eventually at a fun boat bar.

Having a glass of wine as the day ends while overlooking great views is a great way to end a day that started sour. My stay here is short but Queenstown you are a nice stop.

Milford Sound

Today I am going on a day cruise of the famous Milford Sound in New Zealand. Milford Sound is a fiord – a slither of sea between high cliffs. The weather today is beautiful as can be but I am told it is hard to have a bad cruise….even if it is raining the resulting waterfalls are magical. I take lots of photos but unfortunately they don’t do justice. It is impossible to capture what I see, feel, and think while I am there.

In the morning I head down to the car park at Milford Sound area where the day cruises launch. There is a self pay machine for parking. There is free parking but further away so today I just pay. As I pay I am attacked by sandflies. There is a little shop in the visitors center where I pick up some bug spray. I hope it helps.

I have a little while before my cruise begins so I walk along the water. The views are amazing just from the short alone.

I head down to the pier to board for the cruise. Today’s cruise is a two and half hour cruise. It seems pretty short so I hope it is worth the overnight trip down here. Many come down here from Queenstown by coach for just a short day cruise. It seems like a super long day.

My cruise boat

As the cruise starts we are already are greeted with a nearby waterfall.

As we head further and further the views keep getting better.

I admire the sides of the cliffs.

We catch some seals in the sun. I am loving the colors on these rocks as well.

We start to see all the waterfalls along the sides. It is beautiful. Apparently when it rains you will see even more. I’ve been told it is magical.

The boat cruises up to the cliff and the waterfall pours onto the boat and into glasses. They let us taste the fresh waterfall water.

More waterfalls

We reach the end of the fiord. Beyond this point is the vast sea. We turn around at this point and head back.

We arrive back at the port. I walk around a bit more to take some more pictures before I head off to Queenstown.

Same view as earlier but brighter now!

I am not sure the pictures capture the feeling of the cruise but perhaps this short video will….

My drive to Queenstown has many stops so I’ll post more on that later.