Cartagena: Rosario Islands

Our first cruise to the Rosario Islands got cancelled. Today is our rescheduled catamaran cruise. The weather is perfect for sailing today.

Our destination is the Rosario Islands off of Cartagena.

Once on the boat we find a comfortable and shaded spot to hang out for our departure. We don’t need lots of sun exposure so it is enough to just have a good view of the water.

Once everyone has boarded we slowly head out to open waters. Funky music plays at a very enjoyable level. The music is mostly island music. The cruise is relaxing so far.

Once we are further out the blue-green colors are more noticeable. I can even see the reef below.

There are two stops and both have snorkeling. I didn’t try the snorkeling because the gear costs extra and the reefs didn’t look too amazing (I snorkeled in Great Barrier Reef and this couldn’t compare). I am happy just swimming around the boat. I thought it was cool to swim under the boat, something I’ve never done before.

There are people in small boats selling food and drinks at the stops. One guy cuts open coconuts and mixes a myriad of liquids from bottles from the floor of his boat. I reluctantly order this Coco Loco thinking it could end badly but fortunately I only have a happy buzz and don’t get sick afterwards. It is a unique experience watching someone make the drinks on a small dinky boat. I only regret being cheap and not buying lobster from the lobster guy. I’ve read it is supposed to be amazing.

The second stop is close enough to swim to a small beach for those that have some sort of swimming fitness. I saw some getting picked up and dropped off there on jet skis so you may be able to pay someone for that if you are not a strong swimmer. It is challenging swimming back due to the current.

The next couple pictures are taken with M’s go pro.

Our boat out there.

We swim back to the boat and they are serving some great seafood paella for lunch.

Seafood Paella

Beverage purchases are credit only. Many people only brought cash on the boat. I like not having to deal with cash but I only wish we could have paid for it all at the end instead of having to take the card out each time we wanted to order something.

As we head back we enjoy cruising to island music. We feel good, always a sign of a good day at sea. Luckily we didn’t die from our boat booze.

While back in town we stop to have an early dinner at Marzola Parrilla Argentina, an Argentinian restaurant that has some fun décor.

We end up once again at Cuba 1940 where we catch live music.

We head back to our favorite La Cevichería to order the curry shrimp once more and a dessert.

Guava melt with cheese, mint and mandarin juice

There is great people watching from our outside table.

LOL

There are many street performers right near where we eat. We catch “Michael Jackson” for a little while. He is a good impersonator.

Michael Jackson hopping onto a carriage

One very fun thing to watch is the street rappers of Cartagena. A guy will target a sometimes unsuspecting tourist and start following them and rapping along with music (they expect tips for the performance). I spent time trying to avoid these guys but later on M and I teased each other that we would get one of these guys to rap for the other. It is fun to watch when you aren’t the target.

We end up outside a champeta music bar (champeta is a style of island music of Colombia – combination of Colombian chalupa and Afro-Cuban percussive music). The club looks like fun and we almost go in but instead listen outside for a little bit. It is late and we are tired.

We love our time in Cartagena but we are off to Medellin tomorrow.

Cartagena is not a long plane ride from Florida. I’ll probably head back here sometime for a long weekend with friends.

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.

Melbourne Australia

View from my rental apartment

I have arrived in Melbourne Australia – a city I am really digging. The temperature is perfect and the vibe reminds me of a low-rise New York city. I think I could possibly live here some day.

I arrive at the airport and take the skybus to Southern Cross station. I take an uber from there to my airbnb.

Melbourne Airbnb

I plan to stay in Melbourne for a full week including Christmas so I wanted to get a hometown feel instead of staying in a hotel or hostel. I chose the funky neighborhood of Collingwood to stay in an Airbnb studio. The owner is an Australian artist now based out of the UK. Her specialty is imaginative collages. You can find her artwork at Collagism. Her artwork and interesting sense of style can be seen in the apartment.

I love having a “home” for the week. There are some poor neglected plants on the porch that I nurse the week I am there, giving me some sort of normalcy during my travels. Collingwood is a funky but sleepy neighborhood, I think it probably got hit by a recession in the area since it seems many places have closed nearby. There are still enough places in the neighborhood to keep me satisfied and it is nice to not stay in the middle of a tourist district. Collingwood is in walking distance to some town highlights and once I figure out the trams it isn’t hard to get to where all the important sites are.

I head out to meet with another travel buddy whom I met on my Jordan tour in September. Melbourne is her hometown and she has some spare time before the holidays to meet with me tonight. We met at a lively café on the river for a snack and and a cocktail. She has to work tomorrow so we don’t stay out late.

Once again I am very thankful once again I get to meet so many great people during my travels.

After walking my friend to the train I wander around town looking at holiday lights. The Christmas holiday is in two days so Melbourne is full of color.

When it is time to head back I couldn’t quite figure out tram in the evening so just took UBER back. Luckily by the next day I had it figured out.

I am loving the nighttime view from my apartment.

Christmas Eve

Today is Christmas Eve. If the holiday is anything like in the USA then most things will be shutdown tomorrow. I head to the grocery store to stock up on goodies for tomorrow – including Meredith Dairy Goat Feta which I am addicted to.

Coincidently a friend from high school is in Melbourne at the same time as I. She is stopping in Melbourne to meet some of her clients before she heads off to her honeymoon in Fiji. I meet up with her and her lovely husband for a day of fun. (Interestingly enough we both lived in NYC at the same time for about 4 years and for some reason we were never able to meet up. It took traveling to Australia to see each other again!)

We meet up for brunch. So many times I dine alone and most of the time I don’t mind being on my own but it is very nice to have company, especially around the holidays.

Then we head off to our river cruise down the Yarra River.

I almost wear this to my river cruise today. My apartment has fun props.
Cruise boat

We stand up in the back. There is clearance for us to stand under most bridges but at least one makes us duck down.

Our cruise drops us off at Williamstown where we explore a little bit. Williamstown is Melbourne’s first port settlement. There are stores and cafes. We settle on a outdoor seating area and chat for a while. When it is the scheduled time for our return trip we head back to the port to catch the return journey.

The fun isn’t over when we return to Melbourne city. We decide to try it out at a roof top bar for a little while. We don’t stay too long though. Each one of us seems to want to get back to our lodging for the rest of the evening (something typical for us 40 somethings). Besides it has been a long day!

This is the kind of joint we are at
Rooftop cocktails

Finally figured out the tram system and I wander back to my apartment just in time for this glorious sunset.

Tomorrow is Christmas and I have no plans. I plan to eat and relax all day long….

More Phnom Penh

Still in the city of Phnom Penh in Cambodia.

I am in a semi-big city again. I figure it would be a good time to try my luck again at finding yoga pants for my upcoming yoga retreat. I wander around town by foot trying to use maps.me and using up my precious data for google maps to find a place to shop. I end up at a high end mall in the basement of a casino where I STILL CANNOT FIND YOGA PANTS. But the place is air conditioned and a nice place to use the bathroom. I give up on the yoga pants. Maybe some place in Bali should have some I can buy??

*Trigger Warning : Genocide

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

I won’t go into a history lesson but if you aren’t familiar with the Khmer Rouge and the 1970s please google it. It wasn’t widely discussed in my school. I am just familiar with it because as an adult I am a curious reader and read the book First They Killed My Father. From the book I was curious to learn more so I watched history programs and read things on the internet.

Basically during the late 1970’s the Communist Party of Kampuchea government under the direction of Pol Pot systematically killed close to 2 million people. Many were killed in what is called “The killing fields” (there is a famous movie by the same name which I also saw a long time ago). As a visitor you can visit the killing fields and I heard it is very emotional. I chose not to visit because I did not feel comfortable going there. I did however visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, the former jail where many prisoners were held, questioned and tortured.

I took audio tour with very detailed stories. It was sad and very painful to listen to.

The final rooms of the tour contain pictures of those detained and tortured in the facility (I took no photos of these).

Very small cells

I think the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is an important visit in Phnom Penh not to glamorize the location but for us as humans to understand what horrors can happen if tyrannical governments are left unchecked. The 1970’s were not too long ago in the grand scheme of time.

Cambodia River Cruise

To lighten up the end of my trip I booked a sunset river cruise along the area where the Mekong meets the Tonle Sap River.

It is a nice a peaceful way to end my trip to Cambodia. There is of course so much I didn’t see so I hope some day to return.

Junk Boat Day 2

Today is the second day of the junk boat cruise on Bai Tu Long bay in Vietnam (See Junk Boat Day 1).

This morning we start with a visit to a floating fishing village. Vietnam used to have much more of these villages of complete families who live on the water. Now many are paid by the government to give up their fishing life and move to land. Kids of the existing communities are forced to go to schools. It is said it is combat pollution but probably also so they can cater to more tourism on the waters.

The village we visited is small but we got a little idea on how the life is lived on the water.

All the holding nets for fish
Little dog friend on the lookout.

After a float by the village we are taken to a beautiful arch.

Next we head to a pearl farm. It is cool to hear how pearls are made (Always thought they were all randomly “found” at sea) but really this is an opportunity for visitors to buy some jewelry. It is nice to look at but pearl jewelry isn’t my thing.

After our visit to the oyster farm we head to an island to visit a cave and have a beach BBQ.

We climb a bunch of stairs to access the cave.

We find a small cave but it is an interesting way to spend a couple minutes.

After exploring we head back down for some beach time and lunch.

Tables are setup under umbrellas on a small slither of beach. The tide seems to be high so we have to walk into the water a bit to get to the tables. I order a beer or two. The food comes out family style in the form of huge plates of meat that just don’t stop (think churrascaria). It is good but protein is filling and we are wasting so much food. We have to ask them to stop. I wish I would have brought a bigger stomach for the day. (Sorry no food pics).

While we are eating it starts raining. Luckily we are covered. The rain ends just in time for us to grab our things and head back to the tender to return to the ship.

The afternoon has another kayaking adventure that I pass due to my shoulders still being sore.

Dinner is so so. I like the chicken dish served but we also have more squid and prawn (If I eat one more prawn I will throw up all over this boat). What really turns me off at dinnertime is the children on the cruise. I am used to going on cruises with kids and can excuse a certain amount of squirmy behavior but our cruise is small and intimate in nature so any misbehavior is amplified. Most kids were well behaved but for some reason the two nights I end up next to the unhappy or not well behaved kids. I try really hard to be tolerant.

Perhaps I would only do this cruise again if I had a companion to distract me or on an adults only cruise.

Other than the sore shoulders and the annoying kids the cruise is overall very nice.

I skip the squid fishing once more and call it an early night. I go to a village for a homestay tomorrow.