2018 Colombia – Day 9

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The AC had actually turned out to be good white noise – I had another sound sleep and woke up rested, before the alarm. So much sleeps on this trip!

We went downstairs for breakfast – included. Huh, seems to be a thing. Although here was buffet “only”. It included additionals and some other fun translations (of course WAY better than my Spanish would be) and two more juices for Dan’s list. He was keeping track – I forget now how many it ended up to be, but definitely into the double digits. I was a little surprised to see some Japanese tourists, but I did not try talking to them.

From the hotel we took a bus, seeing more of the town and WHOA a big military base. After a bit we stopped in what felt like someone’s front yard and walked down to the boats. From the landing we went one direction on the river, then turned around and went back, past the landing, through a banyan tree, onto big lake like area and then to the boat house. Or house boat? Although I don’t think anyone lived there, or that it moved around. Good sized floating structure.

It was nice being on the water, but there should have had talking boat and non-talking boat. Anyhoo.

Swimming had been on the agenda, so, although it was overcast I had put on my swimsuit. But yeah, it was not so much swimming weather – although I didn’t actually try the water.

There had been a variety of birds, including some big things on the boat house that I didn’t identify when we landed. And speaking of flying things, although it felt pretty remote, we could occasionally hear planes from the airport.

Our host had traveled the Amazon in a single person bicycle powered boat, and was developing a larger, multi-passenger two-person powered version bici bote. They were still working out some details, and the first trip didn’t do so well against the wind and current. But on the on second run they got towed out, which went much better. Most people went on the boat so it was nice and quiet. Those of us left enjoyed hanging out, reading and/or napping and drinking beer.

After the bici bote returned lunch arrived – by another boat – BBQ fish and chicken, rice and beans, and more beer. Yum. There was still no swimming, so some of us went on Plan B to see the lily pads at a reserve? preserve? resort? down the way. Then it was back to town, which was actually very close. Once we were back on land some people were off to the airport, the rest of us to Habitat Sur.

Habitat Sur would maybe be called an eco-tourism resort? But I don’t think it’s just a place for foreigners to stay. Our host talked about preserving the local natural resources and ecological education. He said that 90% of people in Leticia have never been outside the two square km of town, and that lack of knowledge about what the river and jungle contains is a factor in its destruction.

There was a sweet outdoor dining/gathering area and then sleeping accomodations scattered around the property. Several little cabins, and then a tree house!!! After a bit of wandering around to get the lay of the land there was more hanging out and reading. It seemed like every time I looked around I saw something new.

Being off the water, it was rather humid. Fortunately it was not crazy hot, but it did feel more jungly that it had yet. There was a yummy dinner, and then bedtime. Er hammocktime. With a mosquito net! That was a new experience!!!

more pictures, much more

June 16, 2018

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Angel Island

Weather permitting, Angel Island – the largest natural island in the San Francisco Bay – is easily visible from bayside Marin, San Francisco and the East Bay. So close, and yet… of course, being an island, it’s surrounded by water, so access is by boat. If you don’t have one of your own, there is ferry service either from Tiburon or San Francisco at Pier 41.

For information and history, there’s a Visitors’ Center, and the fantastic Immigration Station Museum. There is also interpretive signage around the island at the many sites from the time as the Immigration Station as well as the various uses by the military. The military remnants include buildings and batteries, there was also a Nike Missile installation. There is still an active Coast Guard Station, but that is off-limit to visitors.

You can bicycle around the island, which is of course what we did, or hike. You can bypass the traces of man and enjoy the natural splendor of the island if that is more your cup of tea. I’d imagine it gets quite busy in the summer – we were there on a beautiful sunny December day – we didn’t have the place to ourselves, but were able to find quiet spots most of the day. There are also camping accommodations, which I haven’t made use of yet but would like to some day.

more photos

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Honolulu Hikes

On our recent visit to Honolulu, Eric and I made it out on two hikes. One I’d done before, and one was new!

The one I’d done before – actually, now that I think about it, probably the only hike I’d done in Honolulu in the past – was up Diamond Head. Which is iconic, so of course super touristy. The trail is also pretty exposed, but we went early, so were in the shade much of the time, and it wasn’t too crazy busy – although on our way down it was pretty obvious from the groups going up that several busses had arrived.

When I’d been the last time I visited in 2012 the trail had been concreted at the start, which I’m pretty sure was a change from when I was a kid, it is now hard-surfaced all the way up, and there is an alternate route of stairs and trail outside so you don’t have to go through the bunker at the top. There is also lighting in the bunker so you don’t need a flashlight or good night vision and a bit of faith.

The 360 degree views from the top – one of the reasons why it is so popular – are worth braving the crowds, and at least at the time we were there we were able to find a quiet spot just down from the tippee-top where we were able to hang out and enjoy watching the ocean. The colors were beautiful, and the wave patterns formed in the water from the wind and underwater topography were mesmerizing. That sort of view from above is not one I get too often. Anyway, it’s a bit cliché, verging on theme-parkish, but still worth doing.

The second hike, Wa’ahila Ridge, was also listed in the tourist magazine I picked up, but it was MUCH less touristy. (Well, not that it’s hard to be less touristy than Diamond Head.) In fact, although there were a number of cars in the parking lot, we didn’t see anyone else on the trail until we turned around! Which – our turnaround – wasn’t quite to the “end” of the trail as described here, but it was at the point we’d had about half as much fun as we wanted, and since it was an out-and-back (although other places online I did see mention of being able to link up to other trails, but then you end up in a different place than your car, but I digress) I didn’t feel any particular compulsion to continue on.

There was a variety of vegetation, including a forest of semi-Suessian trees at the beginning. Parts were under tree cover, others were more open, with views over Honolulu toward Diamond Head and the other direcion toward the airport. There was also a bit of rock scrambling, and some spots where it looked like it could get really messy muddy. It wouldn’t be the place to go during or after a big rain. I hadn’t thought of that, but the trail was in good condition the day we went.

It was nice to get out and see a new place. In some spots under the trees it felt almost like you were back in old Hawaii – or at least not quite like you were just minutes from the largest city in Hawaii. I also really enjoyed that we had it almost to ourselves!

more pictures: Diamond HeadWa’ahila Ridge

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2018 Colombia – Day 8

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Again I woke up before the alarm, although it had been somewhat arbitrary time for that as I hadn’t heard anything about a time for breakfast. I had figured I’d hear people but had set the alarm just in case.

I went to the bathroom, then walked the porches and looked out the front, and then out the back. We were in a huge place, but without a boat your world is pretty small… I went back to the room and Ohnoes! Eric was not feeling well. He took some medicine and went back to sleep.

Some others were up and about – sleep (or not) and the snorers were the big discussion topics. And the approaching cold front. I watched the ducks and vultures and the egret hunting around the “yard”. There was a kingfisher, and some sort of hawk over the river.

Breakfast! Arepa pancake and eggs with peas and carrots, meat (didn’t do) and a beverage approximating coffee + hot chocolate = amazon mocha. There was also bread, and randomly – popcorn?! Then packaged cookies and crackers – which, wtf with the crackers?

And… Off to fish for piranha! the morning’s activity. So, back in the boat. We saw some dolphins on the way to the fishing spot. We snuggled into the trees a couple different places, and the guide showed us what to do. The fishing gear was your basic stick with a string with a hook on it. You’d stick a piece of raw chicken on the hook, use the end of the stick to agitate the water (to get the piranha’s attention), then drop the chicken in. When you felt a nibble then a quick – but small – jerk up. Not – the guide pantomimed the rod sweeping up and over head.

Dan got the first piranha, and then others were successful as well. Someone also caught a catfish and I think a sardine – oh and a stick! When it was my turn I did as instructed, and was surprised how I could feel the nibble of a fish at the bait. It was my first time fishing. I pulled several times and no fish, and then also no bait – they’d gotten a snack without getting hooked. Then SURPRISE a pull and the hook came out with a piranha on it.

It wasn’t that big – maybe the size of my hand, and really didn’t look like much until the mouth was opened and you could see alltheteeth. We were not keeping them, but I felt bad when the hook was hard to remove. It didn’t look like there was much meat, but some other folks did try piranha at a restaurant later. Didn’t sound that exciting or that any of them would have it again, but I guess they could say they had tried it.

I saw another dolphin on the way back, but no one else was looking the same direction so I kept it to myself.

When we got back there was some more hang out time before lunch. Eric had slept all morning and thought he was maybe a little better, at least he was not worse. He very nicely listened to my report about the morning.

Lunch was fish (maybe the ones we’d seen caught out of the river?) and rice and beans. Angela talked about the upcoming election, a little discouraged, but matter-of-fact that “neither candidate is good.” And more of the outside world, there was Spain vs. Portugal in the World Cup on the satellite TV. There were also some other guests, including a very cute little girl who said “hello” whenever we saw each other.

Then it was time to load into the boats and head back to town. Once we were out in the water a ways we stopped and Angela and Jon had one more swim, cold front be damned. No one else joined them.

We did a bit of wending through some of the side channels that will disappear in the dry season, and saw monkeys(!) and some big blue bird.

Then we were out on the big channel, going the direct route. But somehow it seemed like it took longer than the trip there, maybe since it wasn’t “new” and there wasn’t so much to look at. It was also choppier – oh, maybe that we were going faster – and I was closer to the front – there was quite a bit of spray. I was getting a bit damp then in last bit there were a couple of whumps and waves coming in. “Is your butt dry?” Frankie asked. Uh, nope.

The boat docked and we squeeped up to the Anaconda. I noticed as we were checking in that I had that still moving like on the water feeling. I hoped that would clear up before sleep time…

Much more my speed than the resort place we had stayed. Basic hotel, but clean and totally adequate. The shower was a “suicide shower” – electric water heater mounted directly on the head – but it didn’t kill either of us. Funny how that is even though we were already wet the first thing we did was shower. Then I started to dry my clothes, but the hair dryer overheated after a while.

Anyway, it was Parrot o’clock!

When we went downstairs, Dan, Erin, Jon and Angela were in the lobby but didn’t join us on the parrot expedition. Eric and I went to the grocery store on our way to the park. While we were there Dan and Jon come in for cookies and beer.

We continued on to the park. The flying in was just as mesmerizing as the first time I’d see it. But wait, are they parrots? Some looked kinda swallow-y… Hmn. Yeah. But I had seen some that had yellow coloring, which seemed parroty. And some sounded parroty.

There was a football (soccer) game going on. We sat and watched for a bit. It was a concrete court, and some of the players were playing barefoot!

And oooooooooooo crescent moon!

Neither of us felt like a sit down meal, but I wanted to try the softserve, so we moseyed over to the other side of the park. I had the vanilla – at least that was what I tried to ask for. It was good but slightly different than I’m used to. I couldn’t quite put my finger on the difference, perhaps a bit of coconut? Or maybe I hadn’t actually asked for vanilla…

On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a bakery we had noticed on the way out. I realized again how much I take for granted the language thing – that is, being able to communicate. I mean we were able to pretty much get what we wanted with pointing, but I wanted to ask if two items were actually the same thing (they looked like the same flavor but were different shapes.) My “not-English” tried to help out, coming up with the Japanese word… yeah not so much. Although who knows, maybe I should have tried. I couldn’t even remember the “please repeat, slowly” phrase, but I guess I appreciated the being spoken Spanish to. When I thought about it, I realized I hadn’t really seen other Western tourii.

When we got back, the other folks were still hanging out in the lobby, so we scored beer and cookies! They were working up to go out, but we went up to our room and relaxed. Ohand I was able to dry out clothes some more – the hair dryer had cooled off enough to reset from earlier overheat. Good times.

more pictures

June 15, 2018

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Waiola Shave Ice

Another food to eat box I must check when in Hawaii is shave ice. Which, I know you want to say should probably be shaved ice, but we’re not going to go there. And this is NOT your American fair nasty old sno-cone. Sure it’s also just ice and flavored syrup (well, more on that later), but shave ice is cloud like melt in your mouth lusciousness, not little icey pellets.

We didn’t make it to the OG – Matsumoto, but did find Waiola Shave Ice – which(!) turned out to be just a couple blocks from Leonard’s Bakery, how about that for axis of deliciousness?! They had a wide variety of flavors, classic and modern, and add-ins and toppings. There was a flow chart to follow for how to order. I went deluxe, adding adzuki (red bean) and vanilla ice cream, and the classic POG (passion-orange-guava) flavor. In addition to the yummy shave ice, there is a little shop with snacks and trinkets, and historical memorabilia that was fun to look at.

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We walked over to the Farmers’ Market at Kapi’olani Community College – which, at least on Saturday mornings, is a bit touristy, with lots of “value-added” products, although there is still produce available – and I remarked on a man’s cute t-shirt, and he and Eric got to talking about making bread, and then he (the man) recommended going to the Breadshop. Which turned out to also be within walking distance of where we were staying! Again the Universe speaks…

It’s a small store front, just off Waialae, the main drag in Kaimuki. The heavenly smell wafted to us as soon as we turned the corner. There were a couple of folks already at the counter, giving us time to eye the offerings.

Eric decided on a country loaf, I was tempted by the brown butter oatmeal, but then asked about an unlabeled item behind the counter that turned out to be furikake focaccia. Which they did not sell by the piece, but the woman at the counter convinced us it was not really all that much and so we bought one. And ate at least half of it on the way home… SO GOOD.

They would be open again some of the other days we’d be there, but I had the thought that maybe they didn’t do the same flavors every day, so got back in line and checked and got a loaf of the brown butter oatmeal. We didn’t end up going back, but I would have been sad to not get that. Although I’m sure other options would have been just as tasty.

It was fun to see how – like at my neighborhood bread bakery back home – everyone came out carrying loaves and had big smiles on their faces. After eating the bread I know why they were smiling!


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Pipeline Bakeshop and Creamery

We were on our way to Bread, but were walking, and when the Universe puts a combination Bakeshop AND Creamery in your path, you go in. Or at least I do. And was glad that I did. There were all sorts of yummy looking baked treats, and malasadas, and a bunch of great ice cream flavors. OHAND wait, what?! Malamode! Malasadas with ice cream inside. Why did I not think of that?! So obvious once I heard it. And apparently it’s a Thing now – my aunt mentioned she saw them at another place down at Ala Moana Center.

Alas it was not to be. First, not all the ice cream flavors are available as malamodes, and then, we were too early – they are only available certain hours. Not sure why either of those things is the case, we ended up making our own – that is, ordering a malasada and some ice cream and eating them together. It all ends up in the same place…

Anyway, it was super tasty, and the place is super cute, and they have a great logo and mascots (which we did not see in person, but there are pictures in the shop.) The Universe definitely knew what it was doing when it lead us here!

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