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Adventure Canada Exploring Outdoors Exploring Vancouver Island Hiking trails Nature Seaside trails

Seaside Trails. Jack Point/ Biggs Park in Nanaimo, Vancouver Island.

Vancouver Island located off the western coast of British Columbia, Canada is a delight to explore. Today’s blog post shares another gorgeous seaside trail around Nanaimo. In keeping with the emphasis on nature and outdoors, I have added some cheery flowering plants found during June around Nanaimo as an extra bonus in this post.

Jack Point Trail in June

The B.C. Ferries arrive multiple times every day from Vancouver area to dock at one of 3 major terminals on Vancouver Island. The major terminals are Swartz Bay (Victoria), or Departure Bay, or Duke Point (both in the Nanaimo area).

Today’s seaside hiking trail runs along one side of Duke Point. Biggs Point is the name of the 32 acre park which leads to Jack Point. Jack Point is a 5.1 km seaside trail. The elevation gain is only 65 m and the first section along the river is wheelchair accessible.

Scientists were busy studying ocean samples

The trail is quite easy and used for walking, light hiking, and trail running year round. Keep your eyes open for interesting art and sculptures.

Jack Point Trail

Beautiful views of Nanaimo River estuary, downtown Nanaimo, Protection Island, and Gabriola Island can be observed from the trail. Freighters, sailboats, and pleasure craft are common sights.

Nanaimo River estuary

During our previous two hikes at this location, there were over a dozen Great Blue Herons feeding in the initial estuary area in addition to a variety of birds: ducks, shorebirds, cormorants, songbirds, eagles. In spite of all the birdlife, there are still quite a few insects in sections, so arrive prepared.

As you approach Jack Point you will discover wooden stairs and boardwalks over the bluffs. The rock erosion is quite interesting and the bluffs provide wildlife viewing opportunities.

Jack Point… This is where the Humpback whales were active

Bald eagles, sea-lions, seals, and harbour porpoises like to frequent this area. Humpback whales were even sighted breeching in this area recently!

After reaching the Jack Point lookout area (look for the marker in the ocean), you return by retracing your route along the trail through the beautiful trees and along the edge of the ocean which eventually turns into the estuary trail. Watch for the Great Blue Herons feeding at the rock bluffs and in the estuary.

Beautiful Nanaimo seaside trail at Jack Point

Bonus….As promised, here is a collage of a few of the diverse and beautiful flowers you could see while exploring the Nanaimo area on Vancouver Island during June.

A selection of a few flowers found in June in Nanaimo.

Keep positive my friends…The world is carefully returning to the new “normal”. My next blog posts will be sharing more outdoor exploration around Vancouver Island.

Categories
Adventure Canada Exploring Outdoors Exploring Vancouver Island Pacific Ocean Seashore Travel

Beach Exploration around Northern Vancouver Island

One of the many advantages of living on beautiful Vancouver Island, B.C. Canada, is its endless and diverse selection of beaches. Vancouver Island is the largest island on the West Coast of North America stretching about 460 km long and 50-120 km in width. The Pacific Ocean surrounds us creating endless sandy and rocky beaches. Some are famous and well known internationally–Rathrevor Beach and Long Beach (Pacific Rim National Park).

Evening at Rathtrevor Beach

However, there are a multitude of other stunning, less known beaches if you are ready to explore our Island. This blog post will present a few other beach options at Port Hardy and Campbell River at Northern Vancouver Island.

Commencing in my home town of Port Hardy located on the northern end of Vancouver Island.

If you plan to depart on B.C. Ferries heading north to Bella Bella (and area) or Prince Rupert you will be departing from the Port Hardy Bear Cove terminal. There is also a small airport. Port Hardy is the gateway to outdoor adventures: like kayaking, scuba diving, God’s Pocket Marine Provincial Park, fishing, whale watching, exploring First Nations culture, exploring the beaches, caving, or hiking to Cape Scott or the North Coast trail.

There is much to see and explore in Port Hardy and the small communities on the northern tip of Vancouver Island. This informative website is packed with ideas and nature information. https://www.visitporthardy.com/

If you prefer sandy beaches; kayaking around the nearby islands; and possibly seeing sea mammals (Seals, Sea lions, Pacific white sided Dolphins, Dall’s Porpoise, Humpback whales, or Orca whales then Storey’s Beach is an amazing place to experience.

Photo Credit to my friend, Dana Rufus, for these lovely photos of Storey’s Beach.

Storey’s Beach and the Tex Lyon trail hike are also favorite locations for north island locals.

Mid tide…During low tide the sand extends far out into the bay.

If you prefer Rocky shorelines abundant with fascinating sea life and beautiful views of mountains and down town activities, then the Port Hardy sea walk and beacon area is where you should explore.

Exploring Hardy rocky beach area… May

There is an abundance of sea life around Port Hardy … from Moon Snail collars (egg casings), rock weed and tidal pools, chitons, shells, and whelk snail eggs. These are only a few of the fascinating things you could discover.

Check the tide schedules… this was a low tide in May.

If you are lucky enough to discover a zero low tide, don’t miss the opportunity to explore! We discovered ghost shrimp, shells, barnacles, crabs, sea stars, sea anemones, whelks, limpets, and so much more.

Moon snail collars and moon snails, sea cucumbers, sea stars. Photos by Dana Rufus.

If you are ambitious and hit the lowest tides of the year… you can cross from the sand spit over to the beacon. We just missed the opportunity this year, as the tide was not quite low enough and we could not quite pass from the spit to the beacon. The ocean water was over our boot level.

The sea life species are incredible at the beacon. These photos were taken by my friend Dana Rufus who managed to hit the lowest tide and cross to the beacon for a limited time. Thanks Dana

Sea life at the beacon in Port Hardy. Photos by Dana Rufus.

Bat stars, bull kelp, sea squirts, crabs, sea anemones… even gumboot chitons can be discovered there! For decades I took my students across to the beacon on the zero tide each year. It truly is a remarkable experience!

One last look view of some of the scenic areas around my home town Port Hardy, as tomorrow we head southeast down Vancouver island.

Beach views around Port Hardy, BC in May

Taking highway 19 down island from Port Hardy to Campbell River takes about 2 1/2 hours (230 km). The trip can be quite challenging in rainy, foggy winter weather; but glorious and majestic otherwise.

Fuel up prior to departure as there are only fuel stations in Port McNeill, Woss, and Sayward during the trip. Watch for nature and wild animals–particularly in May–as bears are often more visible eating fresh grass.

Highway 19 between Port McNeill and Sayward

Campbell River is a lovely community with great fishing, and lots of beautiful walking trails. Instead of heading south on the inland highway, try the old highway which follows the ocean.

To get acquainted with some of the tourist options available in Campbell River, check out the informative website. https://www.campbellriver.travel/

We love stopping at Foggdukkers Coffee stop on the Campbell River Seawalk at Simms Creek. It is a favorite location for locals and a funky fun place to take a break and enjoy some great coffee!

Foggdukkers Coffee Stop at Campbell River

Another favorite location in Campbell River, is the Baikie Island Nature Preserve and Campbell River Estuary. It is a beautiful location to walk or kayak and peacefully while enjoying the sounds and antics of ducks and birdlife. Float planes land periodically and Tyee boat history is displayed. Seals and even the odd beaver can be viewed here too.

Campbell River Estuary in the evening —May

There are so many pristine beaches and wilderness options to explore on Vancouver Island. In this blog post I shared a few less travelled locations which truly are stunning.

My next blog posts will cover Sophia’s 1st year (our rescue kitten), and more gorgeous areas for nature walks/hikes/kayaking adventures around Vancouver Island.

Our province of British Columbia just moved into Stage 2 of B.C.’s Restart Plan after Covid. The future looks so optimistic!

Categories
Adventure Canada Cats Exploring Outdoors Exploring Vancouver Island Nature Pacific Ocean Vancouver Island

Beaches, Blossoms, Being with Family

Despite Covid health regulations and restrictions enforcing citizens to remain in their health regions of British Columbia, Canada; the beauty of Spring blossoms, sunshine, and diverse nature opportunities from hiking to beach walking around beautiful Vancouver Island brought daily smiles and optimism.

Vibrant May blossoms around our home

Our neighborhood is surrounded by an abundance of huge evergreen trees particularly Cedar and Douglas Fir interspersed with Arbutus and a smattering of other varieties including: Spruce, Pine, and Dogwood. The trees vary in height, but many stand 60–120 feet tall! Bird songs and calls are constant entertainment and wild deer and rabbits visit regularly.

We adore nature and embrace the beauty and sounds around us. But…As the trees increase in stature, our views decrease. So…When we hear chainsaws and see Tree Falling companies arriving to remove an unsafe tree, the people in the neighborhood come out to witness the event!

Removal of an unsafe tree in our neighbors yard.

Even the neighborhood deer family came to check out the event!

A doe arrived to check out the action!

Spring fever and sunny days gave me incentive to stain the fence in the backyard! As our new roof and gutters are slate/granite colored, I decided to stain the back corner fence to match. As always, Sophia assisted and was by my side to encourage me.

From natural to stained. The phases of staining the corner back fence!

When the sun is shining, our choice is to spend as much time as possible outdoors during lockdown. When the weather shifts to rainy, gusty days…this time is a gift for working indoors organizing, sorting photos and revisiting memorabilia. May I present 3 generations of Alex? My beloved dad, Alex, passed away in 2007. As a globetrotter, he reminisced of his trips and informed me that when in Scotland he was called “Sandy”. My only son, Alexander, also follows the name tradition.

The importance of family!

More rainy days brought more blogging and reminiscing. Many years ago….my son and I won a zodiac whale watching adventure out of Tofino. It was stormy and a bit rough travelling by zodiac. We got totally drenched! The highlights were Humpbacks and Grey whales sleeping and some sea lions playing in the surf.

Memories from the past…Zodiac Whale Watching in Tofino. Playing guitars in PG.

It was fun…but we are spoiled coming from northern Vancouver Island where Orca pods, Seals, Sea Lions, Pacific white sided Dolphins, Dall’s Porpoise, and Humpback whales roam on a regular basis.

Dedicated to my family….Here is a short video showing some flashbacks from the 1950’s onward.

Family flashbacks!

Birds are plentiful around our home, but the Juncos are particularly bold and don’t seem to mind the rainy days.

“Wet” coast birds in the rain. Especially Juncos.

In mid May 2020, during lockdown, my 87 year old mom (in excruciating pain) was transported by ambulance from her home to the hospital in isolated Port Hardy. Although I was not permitted to be with her due to Covid lockdown, it was discovered that she was passing several large kidney stones!

After several days, they transferred mom via ambulance from Port Hardy to the Campbell River Hospital 230 km south for further tests and to see a specialist. It was on the parking lot outside the hospital that we were finally permitted to see one another. This was a very emotional and stressful reality of Covid lockdown. In spite of mom’s suffering and fear, it is evident by her smile that having family support means the world.

Mom at the hospital in Campbell River

I was not permitted to see my mom for hours after I first arrived north in Campbell River from Nanaimo 155 km south. Thankfully, it was a beautiful day and I walked along the Campbell River shoreline trying to gather a more peaceful, calm perspective.

Campbell River shoreline

After the hospital allowed a quick outdoor visit with mom, I was sent away again and asked to remain in the Campbell River area. The Campbell River Estuary is a favorite location of ours to go for an easy walk, or kayak paddle around the estuary and into the ocean.

Campbell River Estuary…Crazy cloud formations!

The weather was changing as storm cloud formations and lighting portrayed stunning art in the sky.

Seals playing despite the storm.

The seals entertained between float plane landings while I waited for an update from the hospital. The sunset at the Estuary was sublime.

Geese, Seals, and Kayaks exploring the Campbell River Estuary during the storm!

At 7:30 p.m. I received a call that mom (dressed in her pajamas and robe) was being discharged from the hospital. The ambulance was gone and there were no buses north to Port Hardy until the following day! That meant that my 87 year old physically challenged mom was released on her own, without support, 230 km from her home during Covid lockdown!

Thankfully, I was able to pick mom up and drive her back to her home in Port Hardy. Keep in mind, this was a 230 km road trip, during the dark of night, through lengthy sections of isolation without any (or extremely limited) cell coverage, little possibility of any gas stations open en route, no medical support if the kidney stones flared again, my mom is 87 years old–and it is Covid lockdown! Mom was quite stressed and I was not impressed that this could truly be a plausible option!???

Mom and I back home in Port Hardy.

It was a stressful 230 km trip during the dark of night and we were incredibly grateful to arrive safely in Port Hardy. Mom is now a huge advocate of drinking lots of water and taking apple cider pills! We are both Kidney Stones’ survivors and do not wish this pain on anybody!!

The next blog post will explore the nature and beautiful beaches around Port Hardy, heading south down Vancouver Island through Campbell River, and around Parksville and Nanaimo.

Sophia turns 1 year old!

In addition on May 28th our beautiful rescue kitten, Sophia, will turn 1 year old! Keep Optimistic and Safe. The world is opening up again soon…

Categories
Adventure Canada Exploring Canada Exploring Outdoors Maple Sugar Festival Moonsnails Mount Washington Seashore Skiing Vancouver Island

Mt. Washington, Moonsnails and Maple Sugar Festivals. Diverse Vancouver Island.

Vancouver Island, BC, Canada truly is diverse in landscape, nature, culture, and recreation. This blog post reflects February activities on Vancouver Island. Some of the events occurred prior to Covid facemask expectations and while indoor events were still permitted. From powder skiing up at Mount Washington to exploring fascinating sea life, we have it all.

The photo above highlights stunning Mount Washington and a live Moonsnail with its enormous ‘foot’ extended.

Here is a quick journey around some of our beautiful and diverse areas of Vancouver Island, Canada in February “winter”. Let’s commence in Campbell River as it is close to the middle of the Island. Heading north from Campbell River to Port Hardy takes close to 2 1/2 hours most trips.

The distance from Campbell River to Port Hardy is 230 km on highway 19 N. Bus service has stopped at present, so you will require a vehicle. There are few fuel stations between Campbell River and Port Hardy so be prepared and have a full tank. You can obtain gas at Sayward, Woss, and Port McNeill.

There are a growing number of electric car charging stations north of Campbell River, but check carefully before you head north as phone service is sporadic on this highway. The scenery is pristine with mountains, lakes, rivers, and rainforest surrounding you.

North Vancouver Island highway

If you are lucky you might sight deer, elk, black bears, and occasionally a cougar. https://vancouverislandnorth.ca/get-lost-with-wildlife/ Check out the beautiful wildlife photography on this local website.

https://myvancouverislandnorth.ca/our-communities/port-hardy/ There are many fabulous websites which contain valuable information about the communities on northern Vancouver Island.

It is always wonderful to visit with my mom and a few friends while up in Port Hardy.

When phenomenal low tides occur on the north island, it is well worth the effort to explore and experience the expanse of sea life available on the northern beaches. Both sandy and rocky types of beaches are well represented.

Unlike more populated areas, there is extensive space to roam in solitude while appreciating the wonder of nature. Two of my favorite types of sea life to discover during low tides are: moonsnails and sea urchins.

Moon snails and red/green sea urchins. Back home (Sophia and bird feeder)

Upon returning home to Nanaimo (just over 4 hours and 385 km southeast) from Port Hardy our kitten Sophia was so excited to see us. She continues to develop her trust with people and other animals since her arrival last summer as an anxious, wild, tiny 7-8 week old rescue kitten. Sophia has learned to interact with us and is so curious about everything.

Mark and Sophia watching the birds at the feeder, deer in the yard, and snow falling. So darn cute!!!

Sophia helping Mark do repairs in the bathroom. Whatever is happening, Sophia is right there checking out the action!

Sophia assisting Mark

What is a perfect way to spend a day or two when there is fresh powder snow and blue skies? Time to head up to another treasure on Vancouver Island–Mount Washington!

Mount Washington, Vancouver Island

We packed our downhill ski gear and headed off in the truck. The drive to Mount Washington takes just under 2 hours (134 km) from Nanaimo providing the road conditions are clear and good. There are shuttles and buses available if needed.

https://www.mountwashington.ca/ Mount Washington offers rentals, ski packages, downhill/alpine trails, multiple chair lifts accommodating all levels of skiers, and varieties of accommodation up on the mountain or down at the nearby community of Courtney. The website is very handy to assist you when planning your day or vacation. There are outdoor adventure activities offered during both winter and summer seasons.

My husband prefers black diamond and powder skiing. I prefer groomed blue intermediate level runs. There are choices for all levels available here and the views from the mountain are quite breathtaking!

Mount Washington

A different trip up to Mt. Washington brought more beautiful conditions and an intriguing fog bank looming at lower levels. There is an interesting character we have seen a few times who calls to the Ravens while snowboarding or from the chair lifts. This man sits on the snow signaling the birds with various whistles. The ravens recognize him and gather around to visit with him.

Snowboarder calling Ravens. Fog bank at Mt Washington.

The fog bank seemed to be encroaching along the lower sections. It was beautiful… yet somewhat eerie in its intensity!

After a day’s exercise on the mountain… good healthy food called our name! I’ve recently discovered beet lattes. They are quite unexpectedly yummy!

Delicious healthy food at The Realm cafe in Parksville

Have you ever been to a Maple Sugar Festival? Perhaps you might have attended one if you visited Quebec, but it was a new experience for me in beautiful British Columbia. The French Immersion schools and French community organized this event just prior to Covid lockdown in B.C.

Maple Sugar Festival in Nanaimo

There were ice carving and sculpture displays, various Francophone bands, popular French food, a giant bear mascot, lots of maple sugar sweet treats to taste, and enthusiastic French conversation.

Here is a short video reflecting highlights from the Nanaimo Maple Sugar Festival.

Maple Sugar Festival

Vancouver Island truly is a diverse and exciting place to live or visit.

The next blog posts will depict keeping busy during covid lockdown–from art to nature walks/hikes, and spring wildlife around Vancouver Island. Keep safe. Things are improving and the future looks so promising.

Categories
Adventure Cats Exploring Outdoors Nature Travel Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island Paradise! Nature hikes in January!

Time to welcome in a new year! (I’m a bit behind!) Do you enjoy hiking through lush rainforests, or walking adjacent to the ocean where kayaks explore and seals and shorebirds are common? This is our paradise living on Vancouver Island.

Vancouver Island, British Columbia is a unique island paradise off the west coast of Canada. The “Island” is 460 kilometres (290 miles) in length, 80+ kilometres (50+ miles) in width at the widest point, and 32,134 km2 (12,407 square miles) in area.

Vancouver Island is roughly the same size as Belgium (30,688 km²)or Taiwan (36,193 km²), and much bigger than Israel (20,770 km²), Kuwait (17,818km²) and Jamaica (10,991 km²).

January hike to Pipers Lagoon, Nanaimo

Most of our forest areas are rainforest; however, our coastal climate is much more temperate than most of the rest of Canada. This blog post represents some of the beautiful outdoor locations around our home in Nanaimo. Keep in mind, all these adventures occurred during January–Winter in Canada.

Winter time enthusiasts—Kayakers and a person paddling on a SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard).

My husband and I love hiking, kayaking, exploring nature, skiing, and so forth. My son does not always share our adventurous ways. Sophia (our rescue kitten) has mixed feelings about outdoor adventures. She is incredibly curious, but likes the comforts of home too. Sophia loves to burrow and sometimes surprises us by hiding under blankets, rugs, cloth, coats, pillows, etc.

Sophia (rescue kitten) aged 7 months

Another January day, another opportunity to explore beaches and beautiful decorated clouds adorning the blue skies.

January beach walk

Nature offers beauty everywhere and there is lots of physical space to explore…

There are dozens and dozens of trails to hike and explore around our home. This short video represents a hike through one of our rainforest trails in winter. You will see a vast array of flora (plant life) from Arbutus to moss and lichen wrapped nurse trees growing fungus between ferns.

Cottle Lake Trail at Linley Valley

Try to use your imagination to hear and see all the bird species who make their homes in our rain forests.

More blog posts of nature and wildlife on Vancouver Island will be coming, but the next post will be “Sophia’s introduction to Snow!”.

Until then….Stay Safe and Keep on Smiling.

Categories
Adventure Before Covid 19 Coral Reef Mexico Puerto Morelos National Park Snorkelling Travel

Snorkeling the Coral Reef at Puerto Morelos National Park

Mexico (Prior to Covid 19. December 2019)

Today we depart from our resort in Playa del Carmen for a 1/2 day Snorkel experience with “Go native” tour company. For $79 CA plus $10 USD National Park preservation fee each person, we will “dive into the greatest coal reef in America”. We love snorkeling and interacting with marine life.

Our last coral reef exploration was The Great Barrier Reef off Eastern Australia. This stunning reef is a tough act to follow, but serious coral damage at the Great Barrier Reef was clearly visible compared to our snorkeling experience 10 years previously. Research points to the damage at the reef being the result of a combination of factors including: global warming, an increased rise in ocean temperature and pollution.

We are curious to see how the marine life of the largest coral reef in America, Puerto Morelos National Park, is fairing. Benito Juarez here we come!

This was our meeting location where we picked up flippers, masks, and life jackets. There were about 10-12 in our snorkel group including delightful identical triplet athletes from Memphis, USA. We boarded our little vessel heading off to 3 different dive locations on the reef.

Finally, we got to jump overboard! The water was warm and inviting. The visibility was quite good. It is always a delight to snorkel around reefs searching for interesting fish, coral, and unique marine life. Our snorkel guides were very careful about protocol around the reefs and confirmed the real concerns that global warming is negatively effecting reef life. Marine life is precious and fragile. We must protect it.

Here is a short video with highlights from our snorkel excursion.

Highlights from our snorkelling excursion at Puerto Morelos National Park

It was inspiring to see racks of new coral being grown to supplement the reef population. While snorkeling we spotted some fish, a small nurse shark, and a variety of coral. There was limited diversity of life compared to the abundance of the Great Barrier Reef or cold ocean diving around northern Vancouver Island, Canada. However, it was a fun morning exploring in the warm ocean of beautiful Mexico.

After returning to our Sandos Playacar Beach Resort at Playa del Carmen we relaxed on the beach until a lively, full of fun, couple approached us. My husband’s close friends from decades past had arrived from Alabama.

This dynamo couple were totally entrancing and our bond was immediate! Terry and Lynda are a delight and made the rest of our vacation in Mexico full of fun and laughter. Tomorrow is my birthday…The next blog post will be Birthdays Mexican style!

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Adventure Before Covid 19 Cenote Cenote Saamal Chichen Itza Kukulkan, El Castillo pyramid Mayan Mexican Food Mexico Seven Wonders of the World Travel UNESCO World Heritage Site

Virtual Travel to Chichen Itza and swim with catfish at Cenote Saamal.

Mexico Prior to Covid (Dec. 2019)

What a day we have planned! As our visit to Yucatan, Mexico is brief and opportunities to learn exist in each new geographical location; we decided to immerse ourselves in cultural experiences with the local company Living Dreams Mexico and a private local tour guide. We selected the Chichen Itza Private tour with Sacred Cenote and Authentic Lunch“.

Although this tour was priced at over $300 CA each everything was included and our private guide was knowledgeable, adaptable, passionate and well respected by locals. We even had a surprising experience at the end of our Mexican buffet as servers broke into birthday song and we discovered it was our guide, Angela Rojas, Birthday! Here are highlights of our 7+ hour cultural tour around Yucatan with our amazing guide, Angela.

In order to minimize the rush of tourists at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Chichen Itza, Angela arrived at our resort in Playa del Carmen bright and early at 6:30 a.m. We stopped to grab a coffee and tasty morning treat while Angela explained the day’s agenda, showing us maps and sharing about the Mayan history and culture. Angela was a wealth of knowledge and bilingual in English and Mexican-Spanish.

Morning coffee and maps of Yucatan, Mexico.

During the 181.5 km drive from Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza we took highways 305D and 180D passing through a toll station en route. The roads were not busy early in the morning and we arrived at our destination at 8:20 a.m. before the crowds of tourists and while parking spaces were plentiful.

Aerial photos of Chichen Itza complex –World Heritage Site in Yucatan, Mexico.

It was educational watching the vendors pulling their wares along the sandy paths and setting up around the grounds at San Felipe Nuevo. Chichen Itza is a complex of Mayan-Toltec ruins centrally located on the northern half of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

Vendors setting up at Chichen Itza at 8:15 a.m.

A little background information:

Chichen Itza was listed in 1988 as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is classified as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. My research reflects several meanings to the name Chichen Itza: “the mouth at the well of Itza” or “at the edge of the well of the Itzaes“. These meanings tie to the water located in natural cavities (cenotes) found throughout this location. (Which we will explore later in this blog post). Itza meaning ‘water magicians’ translated from Mayan Itz meaning ‘magic’ and a meaning ‘water’.

The sacred cenotes have further intrigue as scientists have theorized that the cenotes are located in a ring pattern across the Yucatan Peninsula and were created by the impact of a massive asteroid–probably also ending the existence of dinosaurs. Search “Chicxulub impactor“.

In ancient, pre-Columbian times Chichen Itza was a thriving civilization of Mayan- Toltec peoples. Archaeology records estimate the city at over 1,000 years old. The complex was conquered by the Spanish in the mid 16th century. Art and cultural influences are mainly from Mayan-Toltec (earlier) and Spanish (after conquest).

Please click the following video to experience highlights from our amazing guided tour around the Chichen Itza ruins.

Our day exploring Historic Chichen Itza

The tallest structure in Chichen Itza is the ancient pyramid of Kukulkan, also known as El Castillo, which is 98 feet or 29.87 metres in height. In order to protect the archaeological pyramid from erosion, tourists are no longer permitted to climb the stairways. Other buildings at the heritage site which have survived include: the Warriors’ Temple, Circular observatory, Great Ball Court, Jaguar Temple, Group of Thousand Columns, and Tomb of the High Priest.

A reliable, educational source to check for further information, history and photos (available in several languages) is the UNESCO World Heritage website at http://whc.unesco.org Search: Chichen-Itza

After collecting souvenirs, we were off to explore a sacred cenote! The 40 km drive on highway 180 to Cenote Saamal near Valladolid took about 35 minutes. Our 2 hour visit at Cenote Saamal flew by so quickly!

BRRR! The shower was chilly after being in the hot sun all morning! Saamal cenote.

The beautiful, soothing swim in the cenote was complete with catfish, dripping waterfalls, and a dive platform.

Playing with the catfish at Saamal cenote.

Despite your swimming ability, showers and lifejackets are requirements here.

Sacred Saamal Cenote–The Catfish loved to hang out in the shallow water.

After our refreshing swim, we had the good fortune of meeting a current athlete from the national Great Ball team. I can only imagine the damage those stone ‘balls’ would make on your body! Lunchtime! The Mexican buffet was extensive and delicious. We would love to return here. Plus….we had a surprise in store as we discovered it was our tour guide’s birthday!

Meeting the athlete on the National Great Ball team, Mexican buffet, and Angela’s birthday surprise.

Our final stop prior to the homebound journey, was to visit the city of Valladolid. This pretty city was very colorful and filled with flowers and gardens. Points to note include: the colonial buildings, the cathedrals and plazas, and definitely the Chocolate shops!

Exploring pretty Valladolid

Thank you for the fabulous tour Angela Rojas! Our porthole into the history, culture, and customs of the Mayan people and the Yucatan peninsula has definitely expanded. We arrived back at Playa del Carmen Beach Resort in time for a relaxing sunset and dinner. What an inspiring day!

Sandos Playacar Beach Resort, Playa del Carmen. Sunset.

Tomorrow morning we head off to Benito Juarez to snorkel in the National Park reefs of this area. What will we discover?

Categories
Adventure Before Covid 19 Canada Mexico Playa del Carmen Travel

Magnificent Mexico! Our Last International Destination before Covid.

December 2019 (Memories)

Swimming in one of the pools at Sandos Playacar Beach Resort
Swimming in one of the pools at Sandos Playacar Beach Resort, Playa del Carmen, Mexico. December 2019

My husband surprised me by planning a special destination trip, to bring in a certain decade birthday, in a very memorable way. Who would have known that this trip to Mexico would be our final International trip for an unknown time due to the global pandemic? No masks. No hand sanitizer or washing stations in sight! No physical and social distancing yet. Presenting our trip to Playa del Carmen, Mexico in December 2019.

The B.C. Provincial museum exhibit Maya The Great Jaguar Rises. Victoria, B.C.

Conveniently, prior to our departure, The British Columbia Provincial Museum in Victoria was running an exbibit entitled Maya The Great Jaguar Rises. We drove 110 km south on Vancouver Island to our capital city of Victoria excited to gain insight and learn about the Mayan culture and history. The information about the archaeological site of Chichen Itza was fascinating and we vowed to visit the actual site while in the Playa del Carmen area.

Prior to our Mexico bound departure, we enjoyed touring our capital city of Victoria. Yes. It is winter time on Vancouver Island, Canada.

The capital city of B.C. is Victoria. Yes. This is during the Canadian winter on Vancouver Island.

My son Alexander also purchased a sweet white Mazda 3 car. Our bags were packed, it was time to travel! Our float plane from Nanaimo to Vancouver departed at sunrise. In spite of some rain, the view of the islands and activity around the channel is always engaging. Conversation is limited though, as this mode of travel is very noisy! From Vancouver airport we boarded Westjet to fly via Calgary to Cancun.

Our float plane flight to Vancouver. Followed by our flight arriving in Cancun.

We departed Nanaimo, Western Canada at sunrise and were famished when we arrived in Cancun, Mexico at sunset. However, we soon discovered that there were more line ups and waits ahead prior to arriving at our resort in Playa del Carmen. The WestJet holiday package promised to have a representative meet us and take us to our resort. Hundreds of tourists were in a similar situation. Eventually, we were divided up and put on various buses. The bus we were allocated to stopped at 5 or 6 resorts, and Sandos Playacar Beach Resort was last on its agenda.

The long adventure from Cancun airport eventually eating dinner at 10:30 p.m.

It was dark and the restaurants were about to close when we finally arrived at our resort. Although tired and a little disillusioned, the lobby was spacious, bright and inviting. The staff were friendly and helpful. Our room was fabulous and the grounds looked clean and enticing. The restaurant staff welcomed us staying open late and served us a most delightful meal. We could not wait to see the resort in the daylight and make the most of our all inclusive resort.

This was our view at Sandos Playacar Beach Resort the morning after…. December 1st 2019.

Sandos Playacar Beach Resort, Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Dec. 2019

Although we like to explore and be active, we allocated this day to chill and relax around the resort exploring the pools and the ocean. We donned 50 sunscreen and slowly, carefully added some color to our winter time pale Canadian skins. Mark was approached by one of the beach vendors to purchase some Cuban cigars. He thought they were great!

Mark enjoying his Cuban cigars.

We had a wonderful day. The following video depicts some of the fun and highlights of our first full day in Playa del Carmen, Mexico including an AC/DC tribute band in the evening.

Our first full day at our Mexican resort

Tomorrow we have a private full day tour planned — Chichen Itza, swimming in cenotes, and learning about Mayan culture. Guess what I’ll be blogging about next?

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Adventure Animals Canada Cats Pets Rescue kitten

Sophia’s Freedom (4-6 months)

Based on estimates from several veterinarians, Sophia’s probable birth was late May. We adopted this little rescue kitten when she was approximately 7 weeks of age after she was discovered in the woods near Port McNeill on northern Vancouver Island. Sophia’s markings are quite unique and gorgeous. Her cat coloring is classified as a blue diluted Tortie with white.

Little Sophia. Aged 4 months.

Sophia continues to suffers from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and can be aggressive and anxious; but she is learning to trust and adapt to our family and neighborhood.

Her snuggles are becoming more frequent and she truly melts our hearts. One moment she is fascinated watching water drip through a drain, the next she is burrowing and hiding.

But whether Sophia is curious or timid, playful or resting, aggressive or calm; she is always amusing and unpredictable.

Sophia’s happy place is definitely outside exploring the yard and climbing trees. So with her recent freedom (at aged 4 1/2 months) to explore the outdoors, came the responsibility of wearing a collar and a bell! She was not impressed!

We started with a safety quick-release collar with no bell. After several attempts, she eventually decided to leave it on and not rip it off anymore. Next, we introduced a safety quick-release collar with a bell attached. It took persistence, and eventually she gave in to wearing that collar too.

Sophia exploring the bushes and trees in our yard.

Sophia has long, incredibly sharp claws (trust me!) and a light muscular body. She leaps up fence panels and literally nearly flies through the air at times. She seems quite fearless outside in nature.

Look carefully at the trunk of the Hemlock tree… Sophia is camouflaged in her position to the left of the tallest silver ladder. She zipped up the tree with her legs spread-eagled apart at an incredible speed. At approximately 5 metres from the ground, her pace slowed and she stopped holding on to the tree trunk. Then she proceeded in reversing by backing down (spread eagled) until about 2 metres from the ground, turned her body around still attached to the tree, then jumped down head first to land on the ground. She has clearly done this before, or has incredible survival instincts!

Sophia is always curious and wanting to be included when we work in the yard.

Whenever we work around the yard, Sophia thinks it is playtime and she happily races around the yard and climbs trees near us. She seems to have a playful sense of humour. She loves to hide, then leap out and tag me on the leg (no claws)or hide in a tree and tap me on the head if I am gardening below her. She is also getting quite interactive with my husband and adult son.

Sophia helping out with kitchen renovations!

Sophia is always curious and her trust has grown to the level where she now investigates whatever we are involved with. Sometimes we end up with extra little white paw prints in unexpected areas!

All this activity can be quite exhausting for a 5-6 month old kitten. She is such an expressive, cute little sleeper!

My adult son, Alexander, returned home to Canada after living/working in Bangkok, Thailand for 6 years. Thankfully, he arrived home just prior to the Covid pandemic! Sophia’s circle now extends to my husband and I, Alexander, my mother, and the neighborhood deer.

Our home and street in Nanaimo

Having my son home opened up the freedom for my husband and I to escape south to Mexico! Little did we know this would be our final International trip for an unknown duration due to the Covid 19 global pandemic. Playa del Carmen, Mexico here we come!!!

Mexico here we come! (Prior to Covid!)

Categories
Adventure Canada Introduction Travel

Adventures and Contemplations from Sandy’s Perspective

The year 2020 was challenging and the covid-19 pandemic brought unprecedented change. However, 2021 offers renewed optimism and a fresh start. I can officially state I’ve had my 2 doses of Moderna now! Thank you Canada! There will be new ways to explore, have adventures, stretch comfort zone levels, and develop new insights. My blog is my chosen venue to share my story.

Background information is provided by clicking on the Menu (upper right). The Search feature assists quick location of previous blog posts including travel to Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Northern B.C., Vancouver Island, Canada, and Mexico. You are welcome to join my journey. Virtual Hugs Sandy.