Categories
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
Beavers Canada Canadian Animals Cats Elk Kayaking Nature Vancouver Island

Beavers, Bears, Beautiful British Columbia!

This blog post is a collage of life events and activities, and Canadian Flora and Fauna, during April (Springtime). From kayaking and wildlife (Beavers, Bears, Elk) to Spring flowers and blossoms on our beautiful Vancouver Island. To round it out, there are a few antics from our 11 month old kitten Sophia and a few Covid Sanity Strategies.

2 week quarantine time for my husband after returning home from working in Ontario.

April 2020 commenced with my husband quarantined in our cabana and the backyard for the first 2 weeks. He had flown home to Nanaimo, B.C. from Toronto, Ontario. It was a peculiar life experience to be physically separated and distanced during the quarantine juration and wear masks and gloves while I delivered and removed food, etc. But….We were successful and healthy, and now have new stories to share about Covid Adaptations.

Meanwhile, Sophia (our 11 month old rescue kitten) and I snuggled and awaited the end of Mark’s two week quarantine.

Sophia our rescue kitten aged 11 months…has learned to snuggle.

Sophia still suffers from anxiety and likes to tunnel or hide under mats, pillows, or blankets to feel more secure when she is frightened. However, she now realizes she gets attention from this behavior and often makes the hiding into a game. I call this one her “turtle” game.

Sophia’s turtle hiding game.

Sometimes, she is just plan curious! She likes to explore anything new from all angles!

Sophia exploring a new collapsible step.

Finally, Mark’s quarantine period concluded, and it was time to venture out together and ‘safely’ explore our “Covid lockdown health region” on Vancouver Island.

Mark and Sandy outside together–April 2020

My son, Alexander, is an Engineer working in Victoria. Due to Covid rules and restrictions, the construction completion of his new apartment was delayed. We assisted (from 2m) by renting a UHaul and bringing his belongings down to Victoria when he finally obtained the keys–April 15th–which also happened to be his birthday!

Alexander’s new digs in Victoria

Spring is a stunning time of the year embracing new growth and reemergence of wildlife after winter hibernation. It is also pollen season. Locate your nearest local honey producer and consume lots of local honey to increase your pollen resistance! It works!

The Crocuses, Daffodils, Tulips, Primroses, Snowdrops, and Heather are some of the early flowers to come into bloom here. The Dogwood, Azaleas, Rhododendrons, Cherry and Apple trees, and a multitude of species are popping blossoms sharing an abundance of delectable hues and scents.

April flowers and blossoms galore!

Spring is also a wonderful time to observe and possibly encounter some of the beautiful wildlife on Vancouver Island. The Columbia Black-tailed deer are the deer species located on our island. The life cycle of a Blacktail is 9-10 years in the wild, but only 3-6 years for bucks as they are the target of hunters each fall.

Due to increased Forestry clear-cuts and growing urban areas, these deer are now common in many residential areas. We observe a family visiting our yard to graze nearly every day, so deer resistance plant species, like Forest Flame bushes, Rhododendrons, Heather, and Daffodils are good plants for your gardens.

Out of approximately 3,200 Roosevelt Elk in the Province of British Columbia, roughly 3,000 Roosevelt Elk reside on Vancouver Island. They are quite massive animals and often seen in herds. Approximately 20 elk tags are given out each hunting season. Beyond that, our beautiful creatures are respected and revered. The toll free number if you witness any illegal activity effecting our wildlife is 1-877-952-7277.

Roosevelt Elk herds are majestic creatures.

Black bears are also spotted around the island, especially when they are eating spring shoots or scavenging on rocky beaches to fatten up after their light hibernation period. Estimates indicate there are about 7,000 black bears on Vancouver Island. In the spring sows over aged 5 years are usually seen with 1-4 cubs. Three or four cubs are quite rare, twins are the most common.

Black bears looking for food in Spring time

Watch for bear scat when you are out hiking and be Bear Aware. I have attached a link titled Safety Guide to Bears. https://vancouverisland.com/about/facts-and-information/safety-guide-to-bears/

Although Grizzly Bears were unheard of on Vancouver Island a few decades ago, there have been a few sightings in recent years. It is suspected that some Grizzlies were successful swimming across from the mainland by island hopping en route. There are many talented professional wildlife photographers on Vancouver Island and tours to view our beautiful wildlife are available. Remember, if you see any illegal hunting please phone the toll free line to protect our wildlife from poachers!

The third Canadian animal I am sharing this post is our national symbol of Canada–the Beaver! The Beaver is the symbol on our 5 cent coin and was once nearly eradicated during the Fur Trade era. They are making a come back and although these photos were taken by a friend in northern B.C. (notice the snow), we have Beavers thriving here too usually hiding out in small lakes or marshy ponds. Watch for the chewed tree trunks, piles of small fallen trees, lodges and dams.

The Canadian Beaver…Famous for its amazing flat tail. These photos were from northern B.C.

Our rescue kitten was discovered in the woods too…but her habitat and survival is slightly different from the elk, bears, and beavers!

It’s a tough life for Sophia! lol

The final topic in this blog about April, is Covid Survival Strategies:

  1. Appreciating your neighborhood. Working in your yard. Observing nature and being grateful for what you have. We were so grateful that the Fire Department efficiently and effectively put out the chimney fire for our neighbors.
Fire Department was quick to solve this problem across the street.

2) Dr. Bonnie Henry establishing Covid Safety rules and protocols for the province of British Columbia to help us flatten the curve and keep safer.

Covid physical distancing, rules and protocols. April 2020

3) Learning New Skills and Adapting to Change. After much coercion from my husband, I started cutting his hair! We found that meditation and yoga each morning really helped bring a calmer, healthier perspective to each new day.

Adapting to change during Covid.

4) Using extra lockdown time to sort, organize and downsize or share. We saved money taking the last of our belongings out of our rented storage locker and seriously analyzed whether we really needed these belongings. We discovered some treasures we had forgotten about, some items ready for recycling or garbage, and I gave away boxes of free educational resources to new upcoming teachers.

Getting outdoors to kayak around Nanaimo area.

5) Our final Covid Strategy is get outdoors and experience nature while exercising! Often, this can be walking, hiking, riding your bike, or playing; but in this post I will feature going kayaking in the Pacific Ocean!

Here is a short video of some highlights from 2 consecutive days of kayaking around the gorgeous Pacific ocean surrounding Vancouver Island. We did not see whales or sea lions on these excursions, but seals and river otters are quite common companions.

Video of kayaking around Nanaimo

Thank you for joining my journey throughout the month of April. The next blog post will include more trips and adventures exploring hiking trails, beaches, and natural beauty around Vancouver Island during May. Also, Sophia turns 1 year old!

Keep Safe. The world continues to brighten each week.

Categories
Before Covid 19 Mexican culture Mexican Food Mexico Playa del Carmen Travel

Reflections–Fun and Sun. Mexico prior to Covid

Reflections and flash backs from our last International trip abroad prior to Covid 19. Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Dec. 2019. Fun in the sun!

Mexican love at our Playa del Carmen resort.

As Covid continues to affect us all globally, and we are increasingly familiar with our homes and yards; it is soothing and peaceful to reflect upon fun and adventure from prior to the global lockdown. This blog post reflects the laughter, sun, and fun from our most recent trip abroad to Playa del Carmen, Mexico. I invite you to travel virtually with me to sunny Mexico.

Home base— Sandos Playacar Beach Resort. Playa del Carmen. Mexico

Mark, Lynda and I decided to take a taxi and explore the nearby community of Playa del Carmen. This coastal town is located along the Yucatan Peninsula’s Riviera Maya strip of Caribbean shoreline. The resort community is located in the Quintana Roo state. Quinta Avenida pedestrian area is a shoppers’ souvenir haven where blocks of shops, street vendors, restaurants and bars are located near the beach.

Lynda had fun posing with the men in cultural bird regalia. We appreciated the colorful street graffiti and I was intrigued with all the beaded art creations for sale.

Quinta Avenida

It was time to catch a taxi and return to the resort as tonight was “Mexican Cultural Extravaganza Night!”. The Sandos provided quite a cultural experience for us–from food, to costumes, dancing (including the traditional Mexican Hat dance), and Mariachi bands. We were immersed and felt the energy, pride and vibrancy from this beautiful country. An added surprise was when they called up visitors celebrating a birthday as I was one! We danced. We laughed. We made lots of noise!

Here is a short video depicting highlights from the Mexican Extravaganza Night at Sandos Playacar Beach Resort.

Mexican Extravaganza at Sando

Within this brief 9 day trip to Playa del Carmen my husband and I have explored the famous ruins of Chichen Itza, swam with catfish in cenotes, explored “Xcaret by Mexico” during the day and evening, and snorkeled at Puerto Morelos Reef National Park.

We have laughed each day while getting reacquainted with dear friends from Orange Beach, Alabama, and definitely celebrated my 60th birthday in style! The warm enticing oceans and pools were appreciated each day as were the endless aspects of staying in an ‘all inclusive resort’. These Mexican adventures have been recorded and celebrated in 5 previous blog posts.

Fun activities around the resort.—Aquafit, yes. Pool table tennis, no.

Our final day was spent relaxing around the resort with our dear friends Terry and Lynda.

Enjoying the lovely resort

Who knew this would be our final gathering in close quarters for an unknown duration due to covid?

Beautiful friends and beautiful meals!

These were days of relaxing in the sun without accompanying face masks and bottles of sanitizer. There were no signs reminding us of 2 meters physical distancing or washing hands with soap regularly while singing the Happy Birthday song two times.

A couple from Canada, a couple from USA, loving being together in beautiful Mexico!

I am grateful to my caring, loving husband who surprised me with this birthday trip to Mexico to celebrate my 60th year. We are appreciative that we reunited with delightful friends, Terry and Lynda. We are thankful that Mexico embraced us and shared their beautiful festive cultures, sun, and history. We are hopeful that once again our world will be free to explore and share with beautiful people from all countries around our magnificent globe.

Our return trip home to Vancouver Island, Canada.

My husband and I returned back to Canada tanned and relaxed. There was no premonition that this would be our last International adventure for an unknown period of time…

Future blog posts will be dedicated to creative ways to keep optimistic and active during covid times… Keep safe my friends!

Categories
Before Covid 19 Mexican culture Mexico Travel Xcaret

Parque Xcaret. “Mexico’s Majestic Paradise”.

December 2019. Our last International trip prior to Covid 19. Is Xcaret Mexico truly the cultural Disneyland of Mexico? This blog post explores the park during the day then includes the Xcaret Mexico Espectacular night performance.

Today we are exploring the multi award winning Xcaret Mexico theme park culminating with the famous evening cultural performance entitled “Xcaret Mexico Espectacular.” After breakfast we departed from Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

Sandos Playacar Beach Resort

The distance from Playa del Carmen to Xcaret Park is only 7-8 km. Many resorts promote tours and we booked a few ‘tours’ on the day we arrived in Mexico. If you are looking for a cheaper option, there are buses available (March 2021) for only $1-$10 CA depending on your route and bus company. Taxis are also available for $12-15 CA and take about 10 minutes each way. There are multiple websites to assist your research including: https://www.rome2rio.com

Photo opportunities galore at Xcaret

Once the tour bus drops you at the entrance parking lot and you pick up your Admission package, you are given a 14 page directory/map in the language of your choice and you’re off to explore the park. http://www.xcaret.com

$124.72 CAD per adult (March 2021 price quote) bought us the Xcaret day admission to the park including Xcaret Mexico Espectacular evening performance. Our goal was to focus on areas depicting live animals and wildlife from Mexico prior to attending the evening cultural show.

Xcaret Aviary. So many gorgeous birds including Flamingos, macaws, and quetzal.

For additional $ there were many other tourist based options available including: special dinners, encounters and photo ops with (stingrays, sharks, dolphins, manatees), snorkeling tours, adrenaline fun, massages, etc. In addition, there were photo areas scattered around the park where your photo was taken and you could choose to purchase these photos later in the day.

Various areas of Xcaret

Xcaret is a family fun park which includes a large children’s activity area, cultural presentations around the grounds, beach areas, and man made underground rivers which meander throughout the park. People can be observed maneuvering small kayaks, tubes, or swimming in the narrow rivers as you explore around the park areas.

2 types of Jaguars, Tapir, and Manatees

Xcaret truly is a beehive of activity and offers options to suit various tastes and interests. The grounds of the park are vast and we certainly were not able to experience everything in only one day. Our preference is live fauna and flora from this lovely country of Mexico as well as cultural displays. Our photos are representative of this.

This video highlights our day tour around Xcaret

But the highlight of our experience at Xcaret was yet to come… We were advised to queue in line as soon as the doors opened for the Xcaret Mexico Espectacular. Prior to entering the huge auditorium each person was presented with a small cardboard figure and a candle.

The forum reminded me of a Canadian hockey arena after the ice is taken out. We followed the early crowd who immediately claimed seats near the main entrance doors. It turned out to be a prize location to view the elaborate show.

Our view from beside the main entrance doors!

More than 300 artists performed 18 acts prior to an electrifying Grand Finale. The dancing, costumes, singing, bands, horses, massive props, colours, sounds, energy and vibrancy continued non-stop throughout the entire show.

In addition, we witnessed the history of Mexico. The journey took the audience from historical dances and rituals, through Mayan and Aztec culture, to Spanish conquest and the Mexican revolution.

Mesoamerican Ball game and Ball of Fire Game

From the physically rough Mesoamerican ball game and Ball of Fire game to the Volodores (Flying Men) and the traditional Mexican Hat Dance; the entertainment was expansive and expressive.

Of course, the Mariachi bands blared, the shoes stamped, and the skirts swooshed!

Click the video below to see highlights from the evening Xcaret Mexico performance.

An incredible Mexican journey!

The Grand Finale was stunning and the song “Mexico en la Piel” translated means “Mexico on Your Skin“. It is such an appropriate title because as we departed from the Xcaret by Mexico Concert, we felt as though we had been embraced by the the people and culture of Mexico.

I won’t give away any more secrets because in my opinion, this is a show you definitely should see if you are travelling near this area of Mexico! (Playa del Carmen, Cancun).

Categories
Before Covid 19 Birthday Howler Monkeys Mexican Food Mexico Playa del Carmen Travel

Howler Monkeys Sing at Mexican Birthday!

Before Covid 19. (December 2019) Our last International Trip

My husband surprised me with a trip to sunny, gorgeous Playa del Carmen, Mexico to celebrate my 60th Birthday. We had no idea this would be our final International destination due to the pandemic.

A few highlights from my 60th birthday.

Gratefully, we had a fabulous experience and it was such a memorable way to announce my 6th decade milestone! From relaxing beaches and sunshine to walking snowmen, iguanas, howler monkeys, Mexican hats, food, friends, towels cakes, music and dance. Mexican birthdays are so much fun!!

After an emotional start opening birthday cards and gifts from family back in Canada, we departed from our room at Sandos Playacar Beach Resort in Playa del Carmen to head off for a lovely outdoor brunch in the sun. En route we had quite a surprise when a troupe of Howler monkeys made an appearance outside our suite and the alpha male put on quite a vocalization performance for us.

Howler monkeys sing Happy Birthday! Lol

For fun, I chose to interpret the deep, guttural vocalizations as an attempt to sing Happy Birthday. 🙂 It was the only time we saw and heard the howlers so close during our stay at the resort.

Howlers and Mexican Agouti

After a lovely brunch we explored the grounds and enjoyed the beach with our friends Lynda and Terry. A lady with a snowman passed by….Sure that’s believable? lol . Resort personnel were setting up domes on the beach for an upcoming wedding ceremony while people played beach volleyball or attended a beach aerobics class.

Birthday events

Today…We were fully participating in the relax mode. Besides…We had a birthday dinner reservation tonight!

When Lynda, Terry, Mark and I arrived at the Mexican restaurant, our table was colorfully decorated and we experienced spicy, delightful Mexican cuisine. Our waiter was a friend of Terry and Lynda’s and he made certain everything was extra special for us. Lynda and I donned traditional Mexican hats and a multitude of photos were taken of inebriated tourists!

After dinner we attended the nightly concert entitled Divas which included a talented Celine Dion impersonator. Upon returning to our room, we discovered a birthday fairy had visited! Wow! What a fantastic way to celebrate a 60th birthday. Thanks to my fabulous husband for making this possible!

May I repeat my birthday tomorrow? Just kidding. I highly recommend a Mexican birthday! Here is a short movie showing highlights from our day.

Happy birthday Mexican style!

Tomorrow we have another full day of exciting exploration and discovery. We are heading to Xcaret Mexico for a day of fun followed by the superb cultural night show. Watch for the next blog post!

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!

Categories
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?

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.

Categories
Canada Travel

Historic Cariboo — Soda Creek and Xat’sull Heritage Village.

I have been taking a hiatus from writing. However, travelling through B.C.’s Caribou country this past summer was so noteworthy, that I find myself drawn back to my laptop to share the historical beauty and intrigue we witnessed this past July.  Commencing in lovely Quesnel, then progressing through the B.C. Cariboo country to Historic Soda Creek and the Aboriginal Settlement at Xatśūll Heritage Village. Both communities at Soda Creek are located adjacent to the majestic Fraser River. Lunch at Williams Lake, then the day’s adventure concludes at quaint Clinton, B.C.

Quesnel is a city in the Cariboo Regional District of British Columbia located nearly evenly between the cities of Prince George and Williams Lake on the main highway to northern B.C. and the Yukon at the confluence of the Fraser and Quesnel Rivers. It is a pretty community to walk through and have a coffee or meal.

About an hour past Quesnel exploring gravel roads meadering beside the Fraser River, we discovered the historic community of Soda Creek, B.C. There seem to be 2 distinct areas and histories in this area.

The first area we discovered had signage, a well kept cemetery and historic monument, and evidence of past homesteads and buildings.

There are even some families currently living beside the river. This area was developed during the mid 1800’s when a Cariboo Road was built connecting Lillooet to Alexandria for access during the gold rush period. Construction was completed to Soda Creek in 1863. The location was also deemed perfect as a sternwheeler terminus on the Fraser River. Steamers named the Entreprise, and the  Victoria were based here to transport miners and supplies during the Omineca and Cariboo Gold Rushes.

In the early 1900’s, this area was also a thriving base during the building of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. Additional sternwheelers, stage coaches, and automobiles were utilized during this busy second stage of Soda Creek history.

Upon further investigation and exploring, we discovered another historical site at Soda Creek called the Xat’sull Heritage Village. Xat’sull /ˈhæəl/ means “on the cliff where the bubbling water comes out”. (Wikipedia). The website created to promote this fascinating Heritage Village indicates the proper pronunciation is hat-sull.

We arrived at the Heritage Village; Unfortunately, there was nobody around to direct us or explain the spiritual, cultural, and traditional history. However, the grounds were spacious and fascinating to explore. There were several types of realistic sized dwellings displayed and it would be a fascinating tour with knowledgeable elders. One word of advice though…Bring insect repellent! The mosquitoes were brutal especially around the wigwams.

Onward to Williams Lake where we stopped to have lunch with my close friend, Julia.

Our final stop of the day was quaint Clinton which is located 40 km northwest of Cache Creek and 30 km south of 70 Mile House. For antique enthusiasts, there are several shops displaying stagecoach wheels and historic homestead supplies in this sleepy little town.

The remainder of the journey home to Vancouver Island includes heading south through the Thompson River area, Lillooet, Squamish, and finally the ferry over to gorgeous Vancouver Island.

 

 

 

 

 

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Uncategorized

Burns Lake–Beauty, Blue skies, Books, Educational Bonding, and Brat (the cat).

June 2019

Returning 1,000 km north to Burns Lake to complete the final 5 weeks of the school year was an opportunity to continue working with a fabulous staff and engaging students; and experience the delights of this beautiful area during early summer. This blog post summarizes the first 3 weeks of my adventure up here.

Burns Lake is located 226 km (2 1/2 hours) drive west from Prince George on highway 16 (otherwise known as the Highway of Tears). There are billboards erected to remind drivers of some of the people (mostly aboriginal women) who have mysteriously disappeared along this highway. It’s an oppressive and sad history tied to this area which directly affects families and students we are teaching.

However, there are so many dedicated and energizing people and organizations making the heartbeat of the community pulse with activity and optimism.

A walk down to Spirit Square to observe people walking their dogs, children swimming in the lake, people chatting with a coffee, or teens playing in the skateboard park always brightens my day. The square was busy last summer due to the horrendous forest fires burning out of control in the Southside. These same grounds were converted into an evacuation area during that difficult period.  

The population of the village of Burns Lake is listed as just under 2,000 but this does not include numbers from any of the surrounding reservations. Burns Lake is a central hub, known as the heart of the Lakes District, with highway 16 passing directly through the downtown core en route to Prince Rupert and is a junction for highway 35 to Francois Lake and the Southside.

Arts, culture, outdoor recreation, and alternate life styles thrive here. One weekend while walking downtown to my favorite organic coffee shop There was a painting workshop occurring outside right beside the highway! These photos are of lovely Lorne Street and the downtown main highway. 

On the edge of the village is Omineca cross country ski club and 10 minutes away at Boar Mountain you can experience world class Mountain Biking. Forestry claims to be the main industry; however, ranching and tourism directed to outdoor recreation, are equally important to village economics.

My home bases during these 5 weeks are at Decker Elementary school and with Loretta, Joe and Brat on Lorne Street. Brat was a rescue kitten and is now a totally lovable and affectionate cat.

My colleagues and friends from William Konkin Elementary did not forget me while I was absent traveling around Asia. Days after my return to Burns Lake, we had a ladies adventure 80 km northwest (about 50 mins) to Houston to check out a funky women’s dress shop Chia’s Dream Closet and Happy Jack’s local bar for dinner. Social bonding is so much fun and important!

At Decker Elementary the staff led by Monica (the quilter), Brenda (First nation’s home support) and several other staff created a quilt with FN symbols on it. The wolf was the icon selected to represent Decker. Some of the students who attend Decker are from Cheslatta Carrier background, some from Lake Babine, but the majority of our FN students are Wet’suwet’en.

This small school has a population of 125 students from Kindergarten to Grade 7. Prior to my departure in early March I had a Learning Commons Leaders’ club for students in grades 5-7. Over 30 students (girls and boys) attended regularly. I had a lovely card waiting on my Library desk when I returned. Teaching is such a rewarding occupation.

During the winter, students are expected to remain outside during breaks unless the temperature drops below -20 degrees Celsius. When the sun shines…shorts are quick to appear! I found the mosquitoes nasty and I wore bug repellent when I was on duty outside. But biting insects did not seem to phase these students! Many were covered in bites from camping excursions, but they did not complain or cover up.

Beauty in nature and artistic expression are embraced at Decker Elementary. Many colorful flowers adorned the school gardens and seasonal art displays outside classrooms were highly innovative and changed regularly to the delight of parents and definitely appreciated by me. Each student had an art portfolio and near the end of the school year students displayed their favorite artistic endeavors during an Art Open House at the school. 

It was very impressive to see the effort and pride students put into their displays.

Arts B.C. concerts in schools are varied and usually enjoyable for students, but this group, Tiny Islands, was particularly entertaining and engaging. It is rare to capture the attention of all students from Kindergarten to Grade 7, but Tiny Islands jazz group was interactive, funny, talented, energetic and musically educational.

A local high school musical rendition of Aladdin was well attended and a fun field trip for the students.

Part of my Teacher-Librarian/Learning Commons Specialist position was to analyze, weed, and update the library collection appropriate to the needs of the staff and students and locate resources to tie to the new B.C. curriculum.

In addition, a TL works collaboratively with teachers developing units of study which promote inquiry learning and reinforce engaging S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) problem solving skills.

This collage depicts a variety of learning and activity in the Learning Commons during June. These lessons included: S.T.E.A.M. investigation related to simple machines; Learning Commons Leaders assisting to review non-fiction subject areas and shelf books; Grade 1/2 Literacy Centers word practice; Grade 5/6 Book Speed Dating Activity; Introduction to High Interest/Low Vocabulary Novels; and Buddy Reading.

Miscellaneous wonderful programs are happening at Decker in June including the Breakfast program led by Ms. Zettergreen where students assist making toast for others while Ms. Zettergreen creates smoothies.

The school wide Jump Rope for Heart event raises money to support Heart and Stroke research and is lots of fun. The loud music, watermelon, and obstacle course created by the grade 6/7 class were hugely popular. Well done organizers!

One day in June the blue skies appeared to be shedding snow! There were masses of white cloud like substances blowing everywhere outside. When these items fell to the ground they piled up similar to hail. This was a new experience for me. I learned these were seeds from Cottonwood trees–a type of Poplar.

So many options are available for weekend adventures around the Lakes District. A walk is always pleasant. After grabbing a drink at one of the 3 awesome coffee shops on the main road, you can walk down by the lake at Spirit Square. The arena, curling rink, climbing wall, dance rooms, weight room, racquetball court, skateboard park, and tennis courts are all also located there.

If you are lucky, you might be invited out for dinner with some of the friendly folk from Burns Lake. The kimono from Vietnam looks great on you! Thanks Sara!

Or you can tour one of the local greenhouses and learn about the most deer resistant plants available for this geographical area. After admiring the photo of the Atlantic Giant Pumpkins, you might feel inspired to start growing some for the next Lakes District Fall Fair.

My next blog post will be dedicated to weekend activities which utilize motors in this northern B.C. area!