Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Ireland day 2: ultra cool rocks and bridges

Ireland, travel

Blogging from poor internet is not working. 

Today's pictures loaded from last to first. To rearrange them would take more than the hour that I've already spent uploading them.

We finished dthe day at Fisherman's In. In St joeseph. Best fish and chips I've ever had, and off sale to boot. 

Giant's causeway: I don't know what else to say but AMAZING. columnar jointing on steroids. Plus hiking. On columnar jointing. Extra amazing. 

The landform is one of the coolest I've set foot on. 

Before that was Carrick-a-rede swinging rope bridge.

Also a geologically cool place because, not only is there a fun rope bridge, but the ruins nearby are from a limestone/lime plant from pre-WWI days AND the adjacent black dolomitic limestone(?) wasquarried and shipped to Europe before WWI.

Here is the morning drive. Drew was in charge of pictures as we drove through Belfast.

After 1.5 days, I just gotta say, Ireland rocks!

Ireland day 1: Dublin

After about 25 hours traveling, we finally landed in Dublin. I had had about 9 hours of sleep over the past 48 hours, but no matter, genealogy awaits. To the Nation Library of Ireland!

We got our little car and headed directly into the most metropolitan area we could find on the left side of the road driving a manual transmission. Drew did awesome, but it is definitely a team driving experience. The copilot looks for signs and tries to follow the Google map while driver tried to stay on the left side of the road.

I had only about an hour to spend at the library.

I spent most of it talking to the librarian. She gave me some good tips, but unfortunately, I still have not been able to positively link my great great grandfather to his parents. I think it can be done, but I need more time. Alas, the pub was calling.

We met up with our travel companions for the first part of our trip, our good friends Jim and Shelly. The rest of the evening we spent walking around Dublin  to Trinity College, St Stephens Gardens, random other streets. And dining at Millstone restaurant in Temple Bar.  I thought I was eating vegetarian, but there may have been liver pate involved.

We spent the night at the d Hotel in Drogheda town about 40 minutes north of Dublin. We were so extremely tired we didn't notice the modern interior and friendly staff. The bed was comfortable though! Damn I was tired.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Ireland Day 0: the way there.

We like to travel. Travel is expensive. We don't like to spend a lot when traveling. Thus, the Groupon.  We got a killer deal for airfare, lodging, and car for 8 nights, all without a set schedule.  Our kind of trip.
The catch: fly west to LA first, sit for 5 hours, fly to Amsterdam, sit for 2 hours, then fly to Dublin. From the time leaving the house yesterday morning to landing in Dublin was 23.5 hours, yet to the longest flight was 10 hours 40 min.  We like to travel, right?
As is my custom, I stay up really late before a big trip. That made me tired.

We flew KLM' big blue plane and
 scored an empty seat between us. It's the little things that make a long flight bearable.
A couple of hours on the ground in Amsterdam where they have cool sculptures in the airport, 

and we are boarding the flight to Dublin.
Ireland here we come!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Baños day 3 and going home

We leave IN TWO DAYS for our next big vacation. I told myself I would get the Ecuador posts done before we did that, so here, just under the wire, is the last Ecuador trip post.

Our main task for our last full day in Ecuador was to get back to Quito on public transportation.  The bus didn't leave until early afternoon, so we got out for a very steep hike on the trail behind town. Our destination was a place called Mirador Bellavista. 

The trail was steep and slippery in places.  We met few people, mostly what appeared to be subsistence farmers who tried to farm this very steep hillside.

This half finished shell of a house, perched precariously along the trail, was for sale.  There was no road to it. The new owner will get in good shape commuting to and from work!

The mountain was shrouded in clouds but an occasional break allowed us to see to the valley below. 

Baños from the trail to Bellavista
Our destination turned out to be a bit anticlimactic.  There was some sort of look out or church-y thing.  The clouds prevented too much of a view.

the destination of Mirador Bellavista
 We returned the way we came, packed up our bags, drug them across town to the bus station, dealt with the necessary confusion of what bus to board, then waited for a long time for a late bus.

Once on the bus we rode in relative confidence that we would end up in Quito. We did, caught a cab to our hotel near the airport, and chilled out.  The hotel was a house with some additional buildings out back. Our last meal was at the tiny hotel on tables set up in the living room because the nearest restaurant was a 40 minute walk through an industrial park.  Ecuador!

I'm always a little sad to be going back to regular life after vacation.  Even doughnuts don't always chase the blues away.
So that was our exploration of Ecuador.  It was a great vacation. We improved our Spanish mucho. We loved Quito with all the old buildings and busy friendly city life. We saw animals on the Galapagos Islands that I never thought I would get to see.  Living on a small boat in choppy seas was a huge experience that I'm glad I did but probably will avoid from here on out. Staying near active Cotopaxi volcano in a hippie lodge was our favorite part, partly because the mountains feel like home and partly because the hippies made it not feel like home.  Baños was a fun excursion in big hydrology, especially for desert dwellers like us.  The town itself was a bit touristy, but at least that made for multiple pastry shops and good restaurants.  All in all, a good variety for an 18-day vacation!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Baños Day 2: Big Waterfall

Hey, I figured out how to type ñ! Call me gadget girl.

For our big tourist day in Baños, we chose to rent horrible mountain bikes and ride the waterfall route.  Lots of people do this. So many that the country should make a proper bike path along side the road so somebody doesn't get run over by giant trucks using this same route to move goods between the Amazon Basin and the western part of the country. But that's just my rich American infrastructure habits talking. It was fine; we didn't get run over.

Essentially, the Rio Pastaza flows through a deep canyon of volcanic rocks, most from Tunguragua, the volcano behind town, to the Amazon Basin. Along the way it flows over various more resistant lava flows to create spectacular waterfalls. The Ecuadorians have capitalized on the falls with a variety of tourist attractions.

Twin waterfalls of the Rio Pastaza. The green scaffold is one end of a zip line.

The rental bikes.

You can see the waterfall eroding the base of the fall back under the resistant layer.
 About 4 or 5 of these waterfalls viewed from the road, we made it to the big tourist attraction, Cascada de Paílón del Diablo, or Waterfall of Devil's Cauldron. 

After checking out the other falls on the route, I was a little bit skeptical that this one would live up to all the hype I had read on Trip Advisor.  I needn't have worried. It was AMAZING.

We locked up the bikes at the entrance station on a rack with about 100 other rental bikes, paid our entrance fee, and headed down. Of course there was a myriad of booths and shops selling tourist trinkets and ice cream near the top.  There were also a lot of other people hiking to the falls, mostly Latino family groups.  The path was really steep and very wet and slippery in some places, but very young children and grandparents equally were navigating the trail.  This in not something you would see in America!  

After about 20 minutes of walking, we reached the most elaborate and rock steep viewing platform imaginable.
The viewing platform. I kept wondering how many workers plunged to their deaths making this incredible construct of stone and mortar.

Part of the waterfall.  It was loud and very misty on the platform.

When amazing waterfalls are part of your country's geography, tall, white Americans become the tourist attraction!  The adults were getting their picture taken with Drew before I snapped this picture. 

Carved into the cliff is a passageway to the waterfall that small people can negotiate without much difficulty. Large Americans have more trouble.


But it's so worth it!  What a funky trip.  It smelled like pee in one spot (GROSS!) but totally understandable as there are no facilities anywhere and there is a giant waterfall next to you.

A small passageway for a 6'3" guy!

Holy columnar jointing!
After the wet and misty viewing platform and the slippery low crawl to the passage behind the waterfall, we took the drier view across a swinging bridge.

I love this picture because not only can you see the size and power of the waterfall, but the truely spectacular columnar jointing in the lava flows above.
 Damp and thrilled we decided to save our lungs from inhaling diesel fumes and pay a few bucks for a ride in a big truck back up the road to Baños.

All that scrambling made us hungry.  We went to the #4 rated restaurant in Baños on the east side of town called Cafe Hood. It was one of the best meals we had of the trip.  Super vegetarian options and good coffee.

I don't remember the dish I had, but it was super fresh and delicious

We checked out where the hot springs are so we could return later after returning the bikes.
Then explored town a little bit.
Not really a doughnut.

We didn't take a camera in to the hot springs because there was really not a place to lock things up well. It cost more than I thought necessary given that the place is run down and pretty industrial, but we had to try it.  The best pool had just been drained for cleaning, so we were forced into either a sort of warm pool packed nearly shoulder to shoulder or a scalding hot pool with about three people in it and 50 people around it.  We did both. At the later, I worked up to having ONE FOOT in the water; meanwhile, Drew went all the way up to his shoulders. He was a lobster when he came out!!  I don't know how he could stand it.

We splurged a little for our last official dinner of the trip on a patio of a good restaurant.

All in all, Baños and it's big waterfalls made for an splendid last fun day of vacation. The next day would be making our way back to Quito to fly out the following day.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Tulum Day 2: ruins part II and the rest of Tulum vacay

Tulum Day 2 was all about Mayan Ruins.  I learned a lot from reading the signs, and I took pictures of the signs so I can remember the stuff I learned. But at the present moment, I don't remember much, so I'm just gonna post some cool ruins pics.


We started out "vacation early" in our rental car for Cobá, which is about an hours drive on a very nice highway through the middle of crazy thick jungle from Tulum.

Can't do a day-long road trip without Day of the Dead bread. Pan de Muertos (Bread of the Dead in Spanish) is made only for the November 2 celebration known as the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).  Hey, if we had to miss our own Halloween festivites in Utah, we might as well celebrate with the locals and eat their yummy bread.

Pan de Muertos at a Tulum bakery. Unfortunately, all the small sizes were sold out, so we had to settle for some other tasty pastries.
Then off through the jungle to Cobá. Cobá (pronounced cō-bǝ) is an ancient Mayan with a large network of stone causeways built around 600 to 900 AD. You can read more about this place on the Wikipedia entry.

Our guide, Roberto, tells Drew that the "winner" of the game played on these walls would die.  Drew, don't play!

Bicycle taxis were the best way to get around, although we chose to walk to get some exercise.  I think we probably walked 3 or 4 miles.

Impressive ruin.

Another impressive ruin.

And this impressive ruin is a big reason why people come to Coba.  They actually still let you climb up this irreplaceable artifact of history!

So of course I did!

There were no guard rails on the top. One wrong step and aperson would face certain serious injury.  That's one of the reasons I love to travel to foreign counties - you can still do cool stuff as long as your are not stupid.

Coba was steeper than it looks.
 Cobá was pretty cool and we got some exercise.  Now we were primed for the big one.


I just have to interject a bit about the lunch we had.  We stopped at a roadside eatery outside of Cobá and had the most delicious torte things and Mexi-coke.  Truly delicious. Probably my favorite meal of the trip.

Chitzen Itza

What trip to the Yucatan would be complete without a tour of Chictzen Itza?  Because of our walking and lollygagging (picture taking) at Cobá, and the hour drive from Cobá to Chitzen Itza, we hit the latter at 4:45 pm. The site closed at 5:30.   It was $32 USD per person. We hesitated a moment, but forked over the dough to run in and see one of the seven wonders of the world.  I'm so glad we did.

The main temple, El Castillo ("the castle") was huge (98 feet high), beautiful, and awesome, and that's "awesome" in the true sense of the word. 

El Castillo
Serpent heads at the base of El Castillo

Impressive ruin

Merchants were hawking a mind-boggling array of trinkets along every path and along the edge of every courtyard inside the site. We found it quite distracting. There must have been 200 or more merchants. As the place was closing, we witnessed each merchant pack all their trinkets into carts and haul them all out the main entrance.  The economics of this system blew my mind.

There were hundreds of columns like these and larger that would have held up a roof structure. 
 About 50,000 Mayans are estimated to have lived in Chichen Itza.  The time frame is similar to that of Coba, but Chichen Itza is much more elaborate and varied in architecture. You can read more about the site on the Wikipedia entry.


The jungle is never far away from taking back civilization.
In fact, this is how El Castillo looked in 1892

Some stone carvings on a temple.

This was my favorite structure, the Osario pyramid and the Platform of Venus. These and other structures near them are aligned to the nearby sacred cenote. Temples, a female goddess, and water; what's not to love.

A huge temple

Intricate carvings
We stayed long after the official closing, and by walking quickly throughout the site, I think we got to see all the main areas, with a bonus that most visitors had gone home.  The authorities finally shooed us and the rest of the hangers-on out of their sacred temple so the Mayan gods could come back and rest for the night. 
Parting shot of El Castillo

The only thing bad about getting a leisurely start and hitting two major archaeological sites with 4 hours of driving in between in one day, is that "we" (Drew) had to drive at dusk on a lonely highway through the jungle.  At one point I saw a large snake coiled on the side of the road. I told Drew we were not walking to safety if the car broke down. 

We also got hungry and thirsty on our big day, so we picked up some dinner at the grocery store when we got back to Tulum.  Lucky lucky for me, the grocery store had Pan de Muertos.  A quiet dinner of heavy snacks, beer, and the yummy bread for dinner by our pool.

A girl can live on bread and beer.


Day 2 Mayan ruins conquered!

Day 3 and 4

As is my custom, I planned to do a separate post for Day 3 and any highlights from the trip home, but in looking through my pictures I found only these.
Most of day 3.
 I did convince Drew to go to the beach with me for a few hours, but we didn't take a camera. The pictures would have been of a pretty beach, and a topless woman.  She was pretty proud.

This Kiwi couple was staying at our 8-room hotel so we got to know them a little and kept running into them in town.  We shared some beers a couple of times.  Nice kids.

Drew loves peanut M&Ms so this character at the airport could not have been more to his likeness.

So that's our New Orleans and Tulum combined vacation.   Thinking about it now makes me want to book another trip somewhere warm.